What Is A Strep Rash?

A strep rash, also known as scarlatina, is usually associated with a strep throat. Strep throat in turn is a bacterial infection, caused by streptococcus bacteria, hence the designation - strep. Some of the symptoms associated with a strep throat mimic symptoms of infections caused by viruses, which may include throat pain, difficulty in swallowing, fever and fatigue, or a rash. It's possible to have one or more of these symptoms, and not have a strep throat. A doctor will take a culture from the throat to determine whether it's a viral infection or a bacterial infection that requires treatment.

When A Skin Rash Is Not A Strep Skin Rash

What about a skin rash? If the symptoms above are present, but it is determined that a virus, and not a bacteria that is the underlying cause, the skin rash is not a strep rash. The disease is more likely to be measles or chicken-pox, but it is definitely not one that has been caused by streptococcus bacteria. If the underlying cause is due to bacteria however, the diagnosis more than likely indicates strep throat, a fairly common disease. If the strep throat is accompanied by a rash, the rash will be a strep skin rash. Taken together, a strep throat and a strep skin rash is called scarlet fever.

A Rash Is Not Always Present

While strep throat is a fairly common disease that affects people of all ages, scarlet fever is no longer as common as it was many years ago. In other words, a strep throat is not accompanied by a strep skin rash as often as once was the case.  Since some people develop the rash and others do not, it is believed that what causes the rash in the first place is an allergic reaction to toxins created by the streptococcus bacteria. Like many allergic reactions, some people will experience them more so than others. A strep skin rash therefore is as much a complication of a strep throat as it is a symptom.

Since it is caused by a bacterial infection, a strep throat can become quite serious if left untreated. The rash is not harmful, and will eventually go away on its own. While the rash usually does not require treatment, applying soothing lotions can help relieve any discomfort it may cause while present. The streptococcus bacteria however could cause additional complications, such as inflammation of the kidneys. The tonsils can also be affected, tonsillitis being another complication strep throat can cause. Yet another possible complication is rheumatic fever. It is important that strep throat be treated promptly to avoid the possibility of any of the more serious complications taking root.

Strep throat is highly contagious. Some people are carriers of the bacteria, and can pass the disease on others without feeling any of the symptoms of the disease themselves. The rash is not contagious, but it is important not to come into close contact with someone having strep throat or scarlet fever, as the bacteria are spread by coughing or sneezing, and one can pick up the bacteria from any place water droplets containing the bacteria have settled, or from the airborne droplets themselves.

The Characteristics Of A Strep Rash

A strep skin rash generally does not appear at the same time most of the other symptoms of strep throat appear, but when it does appear, normally between 12 and 48 hours following the appearance of the first symptoms, it's a sign that the situation is more than simply a sore throat. What was strep throat is now scarlet fever. The skin rash generally appears over the entire body, though initially it may only be noticeable in the groin area, in the armpits, the neck, in the folds of the skin, and on the inside of the elbows. The rash also tends to be the most severe in these areas. The skin will become quite red, and will be covered with numerous small pimples. The pimples are close enough together to give the skin a texture not unlike that of sandpaper. Small red dots may appear on the surface of the tongue.

As noted before, the rash itself is really not particularly dangerous, and it will eventually disappear on its own without any need for treatment. It does however provide a warning sign that the underlying infection is something that should be treated, lest complications of a more serious nature develop.

Any of the symptoms of strep throat taken alone do not necessarily indicate a strep throat condition exists, as these symptoms can also be symptoms of a number of other diseases or disorders. A strep skin rash, while usually symptomatic of a strep throat and/or scarlet fever, can sometimes occur without being accompanied by strep throat. A cut or wound that allows streptococcus bacteria to invade the body can cause a skin infection which takes on the characteristics of strep rash. Since the cause of the rash is an infection, it's important that the condition be given proper treatment.