Treating scarlet fever 

Although most cases of scarlet fever go away in about a week without treatment, treatment is recommended.

This is because treatment reduces the length of time you are contagious, speeds up recovery and reduces the risk of complications from scarlet fever.

With treatment, most people recover in around four to five days and can return to work or school after 24 hours.

You may be contagious for two to five weeks without treatment.


Scarlet fever is treated with a 10-day course of antibiotics. This will usually be penicillin tablets, although syrup may be used for young children. For people who are allergic to penicillin, alternative antibiotics like erythromycin can be used instead.

The fever will normally disappear within 24 hours of starting antibiotics and the other symptoms usually go within a few days. However, the whole course of treatment must be finished to make sure the infection is fully cleared.

Stay at home for at least 24 hours after you start treatment.

Looking after yourself at home

You can help relieve many of the symptoms of scarlet fever with some simple self-care measures, such as:

  • drinking plenty of cool fluids or eating soft foods if your throat is painful
  • taking paracetamol to bring down a high temperature
  • using calamine lotion or antihistamine tablets to relieve itching

Page last reviewed: 28/03/2013

Next review due: 28/03/2015