Scarlet fever strikes UK: Hundreds of children report rash – what are the symptoms?

Scarlet fever is a highly contagious infection which causes a number of symptoms. The illness most commonly affects children, but in rare cases can also affect adults.

Scarlet fever is a bacterial illness caused by Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria.

The illness commonly affects children, and often results in a fever and a large red rash on the body.

According to the Daily Mirror, hundreds of cases of scarlet fever have been reported across England and Wales in recent weeks, with almost double the amount of new infections in one week than the numbers recorded six weeks ago.

Health officials recorded 450 cases in England and 30 in Wales for the week ending December 1.


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In the 19th century, the illness used to kill thousands of people.

Nowadays, the illness is usually mild and can be treated with antibiotics.

However, scarlet fever remains an incredibly contagious disease.

If you are concerned you or your child might have scarlet fever, you need to contact your GP or ring NHS 111.

What are the symptoms of scarlet fever?

Symptoms of scarlet fever can include: 

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • High temperature of 38C or above
  • Swollen neck glands
  • A pink-red rash, which starts on the chest or tummy
  • A white coating on the tongue
  • Swollen, red peeling tongue
  • Flushed cheeks


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According to the NHS website: “The first signs of scarlet fever can be flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature of 38C or above, a sore throat and swollen neck glands (a large lump on the side of your neck). 

“A rash appears a few days later.”

The rash “feels like sandpaper”, and starts on the chest and stomach.

On lighter skin it looks pink or red, and on darker skin it can be more difficult to see – but you can still feel it.

Known as “strawberry tongue”, a white coating also appears on the tongue, which peels leaving it red and swollen.

According to the NHS, the rash doesn’t appear on the face, but the cheeks can be flushed.

Although scarlet fever is much rarer in adults, the symptoms are the same for both children and adults.

If you or your child experience scarlet fever symptoms, the NHS recommended you see your GP, but check with your GP before you go in as it is very infectious.

For full information on scarlet fever, visit the NHS website HERE.


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