Scarlet fever is caused by an infection with group A streptococcus bacteria. The bacteria make a toxin (poison) that can cause the scarlet-colored rash from which this illness gets its name.
Not all streptococci bacteria make this toxin and not all kids are sensitive to it. Two kids in the same family may both have strep infections, but one child (who is sensitive to the toxin) may develop the rash of scarlet fever while the other may not. Usually, if a child has this scarlet rash and other symptoms of strep throat, it can be treated with antibiotics. So if your child has these symptoms, it's important to call your doctor.
Symptoms of Scarlet Fever The rash is the most striking sign of scarlet fever. It usually begins looking like a bad sunburn with tiny bumps and it may itch. The rash usually appears first on the neck and face, often leaving a clear unaffected area around the mouth. It spreads to the chest and back, then to the rest of the body. In body creases, especially around the underarms and elbows, the rash forms classic red streaks. Areas of rash usually turn white when you press on them. By the sixth day of the infection the rash usually fades, but the affected skin may begin to peel.