Scarlet Fever

Scarlet Fever also called Scarlatina, is a bacterial illness that is usually a red rash around the body accompanied by a sore throat or fever. It can be treated by a doctor and is usually not too severe if treatment begins relatively quickly.  Scarlet fever must be diagnosed by a doctor and upon treatment will only last 5 – 10 days.

What Scarlet Fever may look like:

Credit to GP Online
Strawberry Tongue
Credit to Health Jade
Red rash around skin



To go more in depth on exactly what Scarlet Fever is we will first look at how Scarlet Fever got it’s name. We must go all the way back to the first person to mention it, Hippocrates who mentions a patient with red skin and a fever. However the first mention of Scarlet Fever in medical literature was in 1553 in a book by Giovanni Filippo where he referred to it as “rossalia”. Although there were other additions to the progression of rossalia becoming Scarlet Fever the person who coined the term “Scarlet Fever” was Thomas Sydenham, an English physician who developed the name scarlatinaLastly lets talk about how the scientific name for Scarlet Fever also known as, Streptococcus pyogenes came to be.  The genus Streptococcus was coined in 1874 by Theodor Billroth. The species pyogenes was later added by Friedrich Rosenbach in 1884.

Now that we’ve talked about where the name came from lets talk about what Scarlet Fever is. Scarlet Fever is actually a strain of Strep Throat or Streptococcus , which we I am sure we have all encountered either first hand or second hand. Scarlet Fever can spread by bacteria and can be transferred from coughing, sneezing and touching an object where the bacteria is present and then touching their mouth or nose.   The symptoms are fever, headache, sore throat, red and bumpy tongue, called “Strawberry Tongue”(see Strawberry Tongue image) and a characteristic red rash(See red rash image) that feels like sand paper. Scarlet Fever usually effects children between the ages of 5 and 15 and is fairly uncommon.  Scarlet Fever and its symptoms will usually present themselves between 12 hours and seven days and will usually runs its course in 5 – 10 days after diagnosis and treatment. The rash will being to fade in 3 to 4 days but may remain for 2-4 weeks after other symptoms have passes but discomfort will be lessen.  Scarlet Fever can spread through the body and infect other organs in the body causing meningitis, pneumonia, or endocarditis if left untreated or inadequately treated.

Now that we know more about what Scarlet Fever is lets talk about history of treatments. According to Museum of Healthcare Scarlet Fever was most potent  between 1830s and 1880s and could lead to a number of deadly medical issues such as the ones I listed before and “if Scarlet Fever didn’t kill you the lasting symptoms would most likely finish the job”.Initially treatment began in the 1900 when children were given “Scarlet Fever serum” from horses which reduced the mortality rate significantly.  In 1924 a test was invented to test for the presence of Scarlet Fever, this test was called The Dick Test  invented by Gladys Henry Dick, a physician and her Husband Frederick Dick. This test was preformed by taking a diluted strain of Streptococci known to cause Scarlet Fever and injected into the skin of a person and reviewed around 24 hours later for signs of infection, although signs could appear as early as 4 – 6 hour later. Gladys and Frederick also developed a antitoxin/vaccine for Scarlet Fever in 1924. The vaccine was superseded by penicillin in 1986,which we use to treat Scarlet Fever in modern day medicine but The Dick Test is still used today to confirm some cases of Scarlet Fever although most can be diagnosed with a throat culture. There is no modern day vaccine to Scarlet Fever because the rarity of cases is too few to test on the amount of people needed to develop a definitive vaccine, but penicillin will treat most cases and a good old fashion hand washing  will help prevent the spread.



Other Sources on Scarlet Fever:

Mayo Clinic:






Healthcare, M. o. (2012, July 6th). “Would I Have Died? Scarlet Fever”. Retrieved from Museum of Healthcare:

Wikipedia. (2018, January 21). “Scarlet Fever”. Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Britannica, T. E. (2019, January 11). “Dick Test”. Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica: