One of the most recognizable symptoms of scarlet fever is the red rash that a person develops when stricken with the disease. Other symptoms can include a tongue that has red bumps on it, also known as strawberry tongue, and fever. Someone with scarlet fever may also develop red streaks within the creases of his or her skin, have a headache, or just feel generally unwell. In addition, there may be vomiting, nausea, chills, and body aches. The tonsils and the lymph nodes located in the neck may also become swollen.
The symptoms are caused when group A Streptococcus (strep) bacteria infects a person and emits toxins to which he or she is sensitive. These are the same bacteria that are responsible for strep throat, and in fact, a person with scarlet fever often contracts it because he has strep throat. The disease may also occur on account of a strep skin infection, though this is rare.
A red rash, one of the symptoms of scarlet fever, is a hallmark characteristic of the disease. The rash typically consists of small bumps that give the skin the texture of sandpaper. This rash often starts at the neck and then progresses to the chest and arms until it covers the entire body, producing red streaks in areas where the skin creases. While the face does not develop a rash, it does turn red, while the area around the mouth remains normal. After about six days, the rash will resolve and the skin may start peeling.
Another of the symptoms of scarlet fever is strawberry tongue. During the course of the disease, the tongue will have a white or yellowish coating. Red dots may also be visible. After four or five days, this white coating will peel, leaving a red tongue with red dots. This is where the term “strawberry tongue” gets its name.
The patient may also develop a fever in excess of 101°F (38.3°C) as one of the symptoms of scarlet fever. Tonsils may become swollen or red, may have a white coating, or may be speckled with pus. Lymph nodes, organs often called lymph glands, located in the neck may also become enlarged. To treat the disease, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics. With treatment, the symptoms may clear up within 10 days, but without treatment a person may remain contagious for up to three weeks.