Parents are being advised to be watchful after cases of scarlet fever in Essex spike for the third year in a row.

Scarlet fever in Essex

Following a significant increase in cases of the highly contagious bacterial illness over the past two years, Public Health England (PHE) warned that a high number of cases should be expected this season.

Children between the ages of two and eight years old are most susceptible to the illness. However, people of any age can catch it.

During the onset of the illness, the sufferer may feel generally unwell, with a sore throat, high temperature (38.3C/101F), flashed face or swollen tongue.

After 12-48 hours a distinctive bumpy rash will appear, usually starting on the stomach or chest.

Scarlet fever can be easily treated with a course of antibiotics. Suffers will still be infectious for 24 hours after starting treatment, so should remain at home until that time has passed.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s head of streptococcal infection surveillance said: “Individuals should be mindful of the symptoms of scarlet fever, which include a sore throat, headache and fever with a sandpapery, fine, pink rash developing within 1 to 2 days of first symptoms.

“If you or your child develops any of these symptoms you should contact your GP. NHS Choices also provides helpful information on symptoms of infection including photographs of the rash.

“Whilst scarlet fever is not usually a severe illness it should be treated with antibiotics to reduce the risk of further complications and to minimise the risk of spread of the infection to others.”

Symptoms of scarlet fever include:

  • sore throat
  • headache
  • fever
  • nausea or vomiting
  • sandpaper-like rash
  • swollen neck glands
  • white coating on the tongue that leaves the skin red when it peels away
  • red lines in the folds of the body, such as the armpit

Treatments for scarlet fever:

  • a 10-day course of antibiotics
  • plenty of cool fluids
  • eat soft foods (if throat is sore)
  • take paracetamol to ease discomfort and high temperature
  • use calamine lotion or antihistamine medication if rash is itchy
  • remain at home for at least 24 hours after starting treatment