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General Medical Questions
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Question : Can you get scarlet fever more than once?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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July 11, 2011
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A:

Yes, it is possible to get scarlet fever more than once.

Scarlet fever is the name for a Strep infection that causes fever, a sore throat, and a distinct rash. Only certain strains of Strep bacteria release a toxin into the blood stream. The toxin causes the tiny blood vessels in the surface of skin to widen. This makes skin turn red.

The rash often starts in the neck and then moves down the body and into the arms and legs. The redness may be seen most prominently under the arms and in the groin. The rash has a rough, "sandpapery" feel. Potential complications from scarlet fever are the same as those from strep throat, whether or not someone has the rash.

Scarlet fever is treated with an antibiotic. Doctors prescribe penicillin or azithromycin most often. The antibiotic helps people feel better more quickly. It also decreases the small risk of complications from the Strep infection. The fever and sore throat improve before the rash goes away. Sometimes the skin can flake off and peel over the next week or two.

Taking an antibiotic also decreases the risk of spreading a Strep infection to other people. In general, a person with Strep throat is no longer contagious 24 hours after starting antibiotics.

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