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What is the Typical Scarlet Fever Treatment?

By Caitlin Shih
Updated May 17, 2024
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In general, scarlet fever treatment should be administered as early as possible. While the disease can disappear in as soon as a week with medication, if left untreated, it can lead to further, more serious, complications such as rheumatic fever. The typical scarlet fever treatment is usually similar to the treatment for strep throat, given that the two come from the same strain of bacteria. Penicillin is the antibiotic most commonly used, but erythromycin is sometimes used for those who are allergic to penicillin.

Over-the-counter painkillers and antihistamines can be useful in reducing pain or itchiness. Certain home remedies can also help to accelerate the recovery process. In addition, responsible scarlet fever treatment, especially for children, generally entails keeping the affected person out of close contact with others so as not to spread the infection.

Penicillin is most widely used as the primary agent in scarlet fever treatment due to its low cost and effectiveness. It can be administered orally or, in some cases, through injection. Erythromycin is usually given to those who are allergic to penicillin because it is capable of controlling a similar range of bacteria, but it is also more likely to induce stomach-related side effects, such as vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Patients should generally take their medication for the entire prescribed amount of time to prevent incomplete treatment and an increased risk of recurrence.

Just as in cases of strep throat, over-the-counter painkillers, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and certain steroids, can ease most pain or fever that may come with the condition. Prompt scarlet fever treatment usually controls infectiousness relatively quickly, but if a rash has formed, it may stay anywhere between several days to several weeks. Oral antihistamines and topical anesthetics can be useful during this time in relieving any itching, burning, or irritation.

Gargling and rinsing one's mouth with salt water can be a helpful complement to a physician's treatment. This home remedy can not only aid in controlling the bacteria, but also in easing the pain of a scarlet fever-induced sore throat. Individuals, especially children, with scarlet fever should increase their fluid intake and focus on softer foods so as not to further irritate the throat. Natural lotions may also be used to ease itching or irritation of the skin. Patients should avoid scratching their rashes as much as possible, and caretakers may have to trim their children's nails if this is an issue.

Lastly, temporary isolation from others is an essential aspect of any recovery process involving a disease as potentially contagious as scarlet fever. Both caretakers and those affected should wash their hands frequently. Personal items should be washed promptly and kept isolated as much as possible. It is also advisable for children and adults to rest at home and avoid school or work until they have started on antibiotics.

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