Parenting is tough, but by far one of the toughest aspects of parenting is watching your child go through an illness and knowing that there isn’t much you can do about it. While I don’t know a single parent who wouldn’t do everything in their power to keep their little ones from falling ill, the truth is that we only have so much control over our children’s’ health, and even if we force them to eat their broccoli and drink their fruit smoothies, there is the very real possibility that they’re going to catch a bug. When that happens, the best thing for them would be to have a parent by their side who knows what to expect. Knowing what to expect means knowing about common illnesses and not-so-common illnesses and being on the lookout for them.
One illness that used to be extremely common but that saw a rapid decline is actually making a resurgence, and it’s important that parents know about it. I’m talking about scarlet fever.
Scarlet fever is an illness we’ve all learned about via history books, but it’s not something any of us thought we’d have to deal with in our lifetime. However, according to The Lancet Infectious Diseases in England, found cases reached a 50-year high in 2016, with 620 outbreaks totaling over 19,000 cases of scarlet fever in England. Several other countries, including Vietnam, China, and South Korea, have also reported a surge in cases in the past five years.
Though there are no known cases here in the U.S. as of yet, it’s important that parents remain vigilant. With common illnesses seemingly getting worse, the human immune system seemingly becoming weaker and air travel making it possible to spread illness easily from one country to the next, there is the very real possibility that scarlet fever will make it overseas, and you as a parent need to be prepared.
Bearing that in mind, here is everything you need to know to protect and care for your child:
What is Scarlet Fever?
Scarlet fever is a disease that typically follows a strep infection of the throat or skin. Also known as scarlatina, this virus causes a buildup of strep bacteria which in turn causes a toxin that results in a sore throat, a bumpy red tongue and a rash that feels like sandpaper.
Is Scarlet Fever Dangerous?
Like all illnesses, scarlet fever can be dangerous, but don’t panic just yet. In most cases, the main symptoms of scarlet fever, which include rash and other symptoms (to be explained below) disappear within two weeks. However, if left untreated, the disease can cause serious health complications, which may include:
- Rheumatic fever
- Skin infections
- Kidney disease
- Ear infections
- Throat abscesses
It’s important to note that these types of complications can usually be avoided if your child is treated promptlySymp and with the proper medication.
Symptoms of Scarlet Fever
In addition to a sandpaper-like rash, some signs of scarlet fever that you should keep an eye out for include:
- Flushed face
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever (101 or higher)
- Swollen tonsils
- Swollen glands in the back of the neck
- Pale skin around the lips
- Red lines or streaks around the elbow, armpits, and knees
- Strawberry tongue (white tongue with red dots on the surface)
- Red, sore throat with white and yellow patches
Diagnosing Scarlet Fever
If you suspect that your child has scarlet fever, don’t try and make any diagnoses on your own. Bring your child to his or her pediatrician or family doctor. The doctor will perform a physical exam, check the condition of your child’s tongue, throat, and tonsils, and look for enlarged lymph nodes. He or she will also examine the rash. If your doctor suspects that your child has scarlet fever, they’ll collect samples from the back of your child’s throat and send it to the lab for analysis. If the test comes back positive for the fever, your child will be prescribed medications and your doctor will make recommendations for treatment and care.
What You Can Do to Ease Your Child’s Pain
No illness is easy to deal with, but scarlet fever is particularly uncomfortable because of the rash. Your child will also have trouble eating and drinking, so you can help them by serving them soft foods and non-acidic liquids. Keep your child hydrated as you would when they have any other illness, and give them over-the-counter pain meds for their fever and throat pain.
Once you pick up your child’s antibiotics, make sure he or she follows through with the entire course of treatment, otherwise, the antibiotics won’t work.
Preventing Scarlet Fever
Scarlet fever spreads just like the common cold and flu–through droplets of saliva or mucus. The best thing you can do to keep your child healthy is to always make sure that he or she washes his or her hands and that they eat a healthy diet with all the recommended nutrients. If any of your children contract the disease, keep all dishes, glasses, utensils, and toothbrushes away from all others and wash them with hot soapy water after each use.
Scarlet fever doesn’t have to be as scary as the history books make it out to be. Just be vigilant, get your child to the doctor if you suspect anything is wrong, and follow doctors orders. If you do all of those things, your child should be just fine.
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