This week the UK health and security agency have drawn attention to the recent increase in routine childhood infectious diseases which are currently being observed across the country and specifically in the South West and Warwickshire. Chickenpox and scarlet fever are two routine childhood infections which are currently seeing some resurgence post-pandemic; both are considered to be common, mild and of low public health risk.
However, coinfection of both chickenpox and scarlet fever carries an increased risk of complications due to invasive Group A streptococcal infection.
As a parent it can be worrying and distressing to see your child unwell, not recognising symptoms or knowing how best to treat your child at home. Here’s our easy ‘how to spot scarlet fever and when to call the doctor guide.
Scarlet fever is a contagious infection that mostly affects young children and occurs most often in the winter and spring.
The first signs of scarlet fever can be flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature, a sore throat and swollen neck glands.
A rash appears 12 to 48 hours later which looks like small, raised bumps which start on the chest and tummy, then spreads. The rash will look pink or red and make your skin feel rough, like sandpaper. The rash does not appear on the face, but the cheeks can look flushed and red.
A white coating appears on the tongue which peels, leaving the tongue red, swollen and covered in little bumps sometimes referred to as strawberry tongue.
The symptoms are the same for children and adults, although scarlet fever is less common in adults.
Call your doctor if you:
- have the above scarlet fever symptoms
- are not getting better within a week of seeing your doctor
- have scarlet fever and chickenpox at the same time
- are ill again with weeks of recovering from scarlet fever– this can be a sign of a complication
- are feeling unwell and have been in contact with someone who has scarlet fever
- You are worried about your child at any time, or they are not drinking, etc.
Your doctor can diagnose scarlet fever by looking at your tongue and rash and confirm diagnosis with a swab from your throat to test for bacteria or a blood test.
Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics which will help you get better quicker, reduce the chance of serious illnesses and help to prevent you passing the infection on to someone else.
To help relieve symptoms at home you can drink cool fluids, eat soft foods if suffering from a sore throat and take painkillers like paracetamol to control a high temperature and discomfort. Use a calamine lotion or antihistamine tablet to ease itching from the rash.
Scarlet fever is infectious, easily spreading to other people up to 6 days before you get symptoms until 24 hours after you take your first dose of antibiotics.
Scarlet fever lasts for around a week.
If you do not take antibiotics, you can spread the infection for two to three weeks after your symptoms start.
If you have symptoms of scarlet fever it is important to stay at home, not attend nursery, school or work for 24 hours after you take the first dose of antibiotics. To reduce the spread of scarlet fever wash your hands often with soap and water, use tissues when necessary and put them in the bin as quickly as possible, do not share cutlery, cups, towels, clothes, bedding or baths with anyone who has symptoms of scarlet fever.
Possible complications from scarlet fever are rare but may occur during or in the weeks following the infection, and may include:
- ear infection
- throat abscess
- rheumatic fever
Due to the increased numbers of scarlet fever being recorded it’s important to be aware of Chickenpox symptoms as if contracted at the same time as scarlet fever it can in some instances lead to further complications.
You are probably more familiar with chickenpox as most of us have memories of experiencing the symptoms ourselves as children as it’s much more common and mostly affects children, but you can get it at any age. It usually gets better by itself after 1 to 2 weeks without needing to see a doctor.
Chickenpox spots start appearing around 1 to 3 weeks after you caught chickenpox.
An itchy, spotty rash is the main symptom of chickenpox. It can be anywhere on the body.
Rash spots can first appear while others are becoming blisters or forming a scab.
The rash spots can be anywhere on the body, including the face and inside the mouth.
The spots become blisters which can be very itchy and may burst.
Finally, the blisters become scabs.
Before or after the rash appears, other symptoms include:
- a high temperature
- aches and pains, and generally feeling unwell
- loss of appetite
Chickenpox rash is very distinguishable and will be recognisable from its blister and scabbing.
You can treat chickenpox at home safely. Drink plenty of fluid to avoid dehydration, take paracetamol to help with pain and discomfort, avoid scratching as it will lead to scaring or possible infection, use cooling creams or gels from a pharmacy or antihistamine medicine to help itching, bathe in cool water and gently pat the skin dry.
Speak to your doctor if:
- you’re not sure it’s chickenpox
- you’re concerned about your child
It’s easy to catch chickenpox, you can catch chickenpox by being in the same room as someone with it. It’s also spread by touching things that have fluid from the blisters on them. You will be infectious with chickenpox to other people from 2 days before your spots appear until they have all formed scabs – usually 5 days after your spots appeared.
You will need to stay away from school, nursery or work until all the spots have formed a scab. This is usually 5 days after the spots appeared.
It’s possible to get chickenpox more than once, but it’s unusual.
Avoid newborn babies, people who are pregnant and people with a weakened immune system, as chickenpox can be dangerous for them.
Chickenpox in pregnancy
Most people get chickenpox during childhood, so it’s rare to get chickenpox when you’re pregnant.
If you do get chickenpox when you’re pregnant, there’s a small risk of your baby being very ill when it’s born.
Call your doctor if:
- the skin around the chickenpox blisters is hot, painful and red, but redness may be harder to see on brown or black skin
- your child has chickenpox and is dehydrated
- chickenpox symptoms suddenly get worse
- you’re pregnant and have not had chickenpox before, or you’re not sure, and you’ve been near someone with chickenpox
- you have a weakened immune system and have been near someone with chickenpox
- you think your newborn baby has chickenpox
Some people may be able to take medicine to prevent complications. It needs to be started within 24 hours of the spots appearing.
The chickenpox vaccine
You can get the chickenpox vaccine from your doctor if there’s a risk of harming someone with a weakened immune system if you spread the virus to them.
(Cost to a Concierge Medical Member £105)
Shingles and chickenpox
When you get chickenpox, the virus stays in your body. The virus can be triggered again if your immune system is weak. This causes shingles. This can happen because of stress, certain conditions, or treatments like chemotherapy.
You cannot catch shingles from someone with chickenpox.
You can catch chickenpox from someone with shingles if you have not had chickenpox before.
Your doctor can arrange a Shingles vaccine for you if you are over 50, there are two options: Shingrix requires two doses at £250 each, Zostovax is just a single dose at £220. Shingrix is more effective at 90+ %, Zostovax less so at around 60 %. (Prices quoted available to Concierge Medical Members are correct at the time of issue).
N.b. Check if medication is suitable to your individual status, be aware of dosages.
If you are concerned about your or your child’s health, always discuss with your doctor at the first opportunity. We’re here to help.
Founded in 2013, Concierge Medical Practice has progressed to become a national award-winning private General Practice, providing the best healthcare to individual clients and businesses throughout Cotswolds, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and Oxfordshire.
Our members have a named private doctor, providing on-going continuity of care. Our list size is kept small to guarantee availability and quality. We are a home-visiting practice, our private doctors are readily contactable for home visits, remote consultations, advice and support. Our team pride themselves on offering the highest quality of care to our members. Getting access to medical care at a time that is convenient for you is essential for your health and wellbeing. Our private doctors always have time for our members.
We have a strong network of secondary care and allied health professionals who complement our general practice services and whom we can readily access.
For more information contact us by phone on 01451 600900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.conciergemedical.co.uk.
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