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Scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is an illness that most often occurs in children between the ages of 2 and 10 who have recently had strep throat. It is caused by a poison (toxin) released by some types of strep bacteria.

The most noticeable symptom of scarlet fever is a rough, red rash that feels like sandpaper. The rash begins on the chest and abdomen and spreads over the rest of the body within 1 to 2 days. The rash and redness are more apparent in skin folds, especially in the groin, armpits, and elbow creases. Fever and a sore throat usually develop before the rash appears.

Scarlet fever and the strep infection that causes it are treated with antibiotics. The rash itself is not contagious and does not need treatment. Most cases of scarlet fever can be cured without the development of permanent complications.

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  • Scarlet fever