Scarlet fever cases on the rise in young children

Do you know the signs of scarlet fever? Early treatment is important. Learn how to spot the symptoms in your child - including how to look for the rash on darker skin.

Strep A is the bacteria that causes scarlet fever. It's on the rise in the UK, particularly in children under 10.

Your child can become very ill if they don't get treatment quickly.

What are the early symptoms?

  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Typical symptoms after 12 to 48 hours 

  • Red, pinhead rash - harder to spot on darker skin
  • Skin feels like sandpaper
  • Flushed cheeks
  • Pale around the mouth
  • Tongue may resemble the skin of a strawberry

How to spot the rash on darker skin

What should I do if I think my child has scarlet fever?

  • Don't hesitate - trust your instincts.
  • Contact NHS 111 or your GP.

When to call 999 or go to A&E

  • Your child can't breathe properly – you may notice grunting noises or their tummy sucking under their ribs
  • There are pauses when your child breathes
  • Your child’s skin, tongue or lips are blue
  • Your child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake

More resources

Learn more about scarlet fever in children on the NHS website.

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