Scarlet Fever: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Scarlet fever is a term used for strep throat with a rash. Scarlet fever and strep infections are treated with antibiotics. Treatment can prevent serious problems from strep infection. The strep infection that causes scarlet fever can spread to others until 24 hours after you begin taking antibiotics.

The rough, red rash that occurs with scarlet fever usually fades in about a week. At that time the skin may begin to peel.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your antibiotics exactly as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • For 24 hours after you begin taking antibiotics, avoid contact with other people, especially infants and children. Do not go to work or school until 1 full day after you began taking antibiotics. Keep your drinking glass and eating utensils separate, and wash these items well in hot, soapy water.
  • Gargle with warm salt water once an hour to help reduce swelling and relieve pain. Use 1 teaspoon of salt mixed in 1 cup of warm water.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Be careful when taking over-the-counter cold or flu medicines and Tylenol at the same time. Many of these medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Read the labels to make sure that you are not taking more than the recommended dose. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Try an over-the-counter anesthetic throat spray or throat lozenges, which may help relieve throat pain.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Fluids may help soothe an irritated throat. Hot fluids, such as tea or soup, may help relieve throat pain.
  • While your throat is very sore, use liquid nourishment such as soup or high-protein drinks.
  • Get lots of rest.
  • Do not smoke, and avoid second-hand smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • You have new pain, or your pain gets worse.
  • You have new or worse trouble swallowing.
  • You seem to be getting sicker.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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