Treating scarlet fever 

Most cases of scarlet fever clear up after about a week without treatment. However, treatment is recommended.

Treatment reduces the length of time you're contagious, speeds up recovery and lowers the risk of complications of scarlet fever.

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

Without treatment, you'll be contagious for one to two weeks after symptoms appear.


Scarlet fever is usually treated with a 10-day course of antibiotics. This is often in the form of penicillin or amoxicillin tablets, although liquid may be used for young children.

For people who are allergic to penicillin, alternative antibiotics such as erythromycin can be used instead.

The fever usually gets better within 24 hours of starting antibiotics, with the other symptoms disappearing within a few days. However, it's important that the whole course of treatment is completed to ensure the infection is fully cleared.

Keep your child away from nursery or school for at least 24 hours after starting antibiotic treatment. Adults with scarlet fever should also stay off work for at least 24 hours after starting treatment.

Self care

Many of the symptoms of scarlet fever can be relieved using some simple self care measures, such as:

  • drinking plenty of cool fluids
  • 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: 04/03/2015

Next review due: 04/03/2017