Watch out for scarlet fever

Parents are urged to be on the look-out for scarlet fever after an above expected increase in the disease across the country.

Scarlet fever (scarlatina) is a very infectious disease which causes a high temperature and a rash on many parts of the body. It is usually a mild disease, but without treatment, the infection can spread to the ears and throat, and in rare cases can lead to meningitis, pneumonia, bone infection, blood poisoning, kidney damage and heart damage.

Early symptoms of scarlet fever can include sore throat, headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. After 12-24 hours, a red, ‘pinhead’ rash can develop, often first appearing on the chest and abdomen and rapidly spreading to other parts of the body.

The rash can give the skin a sandpaper-like texture and also cause flushed cheeks and paleness around the mouth.

Parents who think that their child may have scarlet fever should call the NHS on 111 or their GP surgery, for advice. They should not take their child out unless advised to do so by a medic.

The infection can be spread in schools and nurseries through direct physical contact between children and staff and through contact with surfaces such as table tops, taps, toys and handles.

Children, young people and adults with suspected scarlet fever should be excluded from nursery, school or work for 24 hours after beginning antibiotic treatment.

Good hygiene, particularly thorough hand washing, remains the most important way of preventing and controlling the spread of infection.

Schools and nurseries that suspect they may have one or more children with scarlet fever can contact the local health protection team on 020 8327 7181 for advice.

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