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Scarlet Fever Treatment & Management

  • Author: Bahman Sotoodian, MD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
 
Updated: Mar 07, 2016
 

Approach Considerations

The goals in the treatment of scarlet fever are (1) to prevent acute rheumatic fever, (2) to reduce the spread of infection, (3) to prevent poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis and suppurative sequelae (eg, adenitis, mastoiditis, ethmoiditis, abscesses, cellulitis), and (4) to shorten the course of illness.

Antibiotic therapy is the treatment of choice for scarlet fever. Whether antibiotics prevent poststreptococcal glomerulonephritis is still debated in the literature.

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Medical Care

Penicillin (or amoxicillin) remains the drug of choice (documented cases of penicillin-resistant group A streptococcal infections still do not exist). A first-generation cephalosporin may be an effective alternative, as long as the patient does not have any documented anaphylactic reactions to penicillin. If this is the case, clindamycin or erythromycin may be considered as an alternative.[17, 18]  However, some strains of group A streptococci may not be susceptible to macrolides. Hence, in this situation, it is crucial to contact the microbiology laboratory with regard to the sensitivity of the organism to macrolide antibiotics. A 10- to 14-day course of treatment is usually recommended, and clinical improvement should be noted after 24-48 hours of antibiotic initiation.

Cultures should be obtained where organisms other than streptococcal bacteria are suspected. The desquamating rash that follows is self-limited, with only emollients necessary for care.

If odynophagia accompanying streptococcal pharyngitis is especially severe, hospitalization may be warranted for intravenous hydration and antibiotics.

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Prevention

At this time, a vaccine for group A streptococci does not exist.[19]  To minimize contagion, children with scarlet fever should not return to school or daycare until they have completed 24 hours of antibiotic therapy and are clinically improving. 

Hand hygiene and proper maintenance of environmental hygiene should be highly reinforced. 

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Consultations

If the diagnosis is unclear, consultation with a dermatologist is recommended. For serious complications, an infectious disease specialist should be consulted. Referral to an otolaryngologist for tonsillectomy may be recommended for patients with recurrent pharyngitis.

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Long-Term Monitoring

Follow-up evaluation is recommended to ensure resolution of the primary infection. Some patients report pruritus associated with the desquamating rash. Oral antihistamines and emollients usually are sufficient to control the pruritus.

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Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Bahman Sotoodian, MD Resident Physician, Department of Dermatology, University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, Canada

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Coauthor(s)

Jaggi Rao, MD, FRCPC Clinical Professor of Medicine, Division of Dermatology and Cutaneous Sciences, Director of Dermatology Residency Program, University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry

Jaggi Rao, MD, FRCPC is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery, Canadian Medical Association, Pacific Dermatologic Association, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Canadian Medical Protective Association, Canadian Dermatology Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

William D James, MD Paul R Gross Professor of Dermatology, Vice-Chairman, Residency Program Director, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

William D James, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Edward J Zabawski, Jr, DO Medical and Surgical Dermatology

Edward J Zabawski, Jr, DO is a member of the following medical societies: American Osteopathic Association, New England Dermatological Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Acknowledgements

Jerry Balentine, DO Professor and Chair of Emergency Medicine, New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine; Executive Vice President, St Barnabas Hospital

Jerry Balentine, DO is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Osteopathic Emergency Physicians, American College of Physician Executives, American Osteopathic Association, and New York Academy of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Peter Bloomfield, MD, MPH Clinical Instructor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Pamela L Dyne, MD Professor of Clinical Medicine/Emergency Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine; Attending Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, Olive View-UCLA Medical Center

Pamela L Dyne, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Craig A Elmets, MD Professor and Chair, Department of Dermatology, Director, UAB Skin Diseases Research Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine

Craig A Elmets, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Association of Immunologists, American College of Physicians, American Federation for Medical Research, and Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Palomar Medical Technologies Stock None; Astellas Consulting fee Review panel membership; Massachusetts Medical Society Salary Employment; Abbott Laboratories Grant/research funds Independent contractor; UpToDate Salary Employment; Biogen Grant/research funds Independent contractor; Clinuvel Independent contractor; Covan Basilea Pharmaceutical Grant/research funds Independent contractor; ISDIN None Consulting; TenX BIopharma Grant/research funds Independent contractor

Daniel P Lombardi, DO Clinical Assistant Professor, New York College of Osteopathic Medicine; Attending Physician, Associate Department Director and Program Director, Department of Emergency Medicine, St Barnabas Hospital

Daniel P Lombardi, DO is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Osteopathic Emergency Physicians, and American Osteopathic Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Robert E O'Connor, MD, MPH Professor and Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Virginia Health System

Robert E O'Connor, MD, MPH is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Physician Executives, American Heart Association, American Medical Association, Medical Society of Delaware, National Association of EMS Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, and Wilderness Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Joseph A Salomone III, MD Associate Professor and Attending Staff, Truman Medical Centers, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine; EMS Medical Director, Kansas City, Missouri

Joseph A Salomone III, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Emergency Medicine, National Association of EMS Physicians, and Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Medscape Reference Salary Employment

Richard P Vinson, MD Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Paul L Foster School of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Mountain View Dermatology, PA

Richard P Vinson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Association of Military Dermatologists, Texas Dermatological Society, and Texas Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Eric L Weiss, MD, DTM&H Medical Director, Office of Service Continuity and Disaster Planning, Fellowship Director, Stanford University Medical Center Disaster Medicine Fellowship, Chairman, SUMC and LPCH Bioterrorism and Emergency Preparedness Task Force, Clinical Associate Progressor, Department of Surgery (Emergency Medicine), Stanford University Medical Center

Eric L Weiss, MD, DTM&H is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, American Medical Association, American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Southeastern Surgical Congress, Southern Association for Oncology, Southern Clinical Neurological Society, and Wilderness Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Garry Wilkes, MBBS, FACEM Director of Emergency Medicine, Calvary Hospital, Canberra, ACT; Adjunct Associate Professor, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Grace M Young, MD Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Maryland Medical Center

Grace M Young, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Emergency Physicians

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

References
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The exudative pharyngitis typical of scarlet fever. Although the tongue is somewhat out of focus, the whitish coating observed early in scarlet fever is visible.
 
 
 
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