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As a parent, you work hard to ensure your child stays healthy and happy. But the fact is, millions of children will develop strep throat annually, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A certain strain of strep throat, known as a group A streptococcal infection, may develop into scarlet fever, according to the CDC. While it’s most known for its telltale skin rash, scarlet fever tongue symptoms may occur.

Find out more about what to look out for in your child’s mouth and how to get your little one feeling their best again.

Scarlet Fever Symptoms

Symptoms of scarlet fever include a red rash, red lines on the body, sore throat, fever and “strawberry tongue,” reports the Mayo Clinic. The infection first shows as a whitish color over the tongue, which may be swollen. Eventually, the tongue turns bright red or red bumps may appear. Strawberry tongue can last several days longer than the actual fever, reports the CDC. It is typically painful to swallow and your child’s throat will be sore.

It’s important to note that strawberry tongue is not always caused by scarlet fever. If your child has similar symptoms on their tongue but no other signs of scarlet fever, chances are there’s another underlying illness causing it. A timely visit to the doctor is essential so they can give a correct diagnosis.

Risk Factors and Complications of Scarlet Fever

Scarlet fever and the resulting tongue symptoms only occur in people who have had strep throat or a form of skin infection. It’s most common in children between the ages of 5 and 15.

If left untreated, scarlet fever can have serious long-term effects, including kidney problems, arthritis and other immune system conditions. Fortunately, the infection is not as prevalent today as it once was, and it’s wholly treatable with antibiotics.

Chewing or swallowing with scarlet fever tongue symptoms can be painful. When treated, the condition is easy to cure. But if not, the fever can affect your child’s enamel on his teeth, causing hypoplasia, notes the Textbook of Oral Medicine, Oral Diagnosis, and Oral Radiology. More commonly caused by genetics, enamel hypoplasia causes enamel to be pocked or thinner, leading to sensitivity.

It’s a good idea to instruct your child to brush with Colgate Kids Cavity Protection toothpaste, which is extra gentle on tooth enamel. Your child should brush the sensitive tissue gingerly and keep the contaminated toothbrush away from communal areas. You should also replace the toothbrush after the infection has cleared.

When to See Your Doctor

If your child is lethargic, runs a fever and has a prolonged sore throat, it’s always best to rule out strep throat by seeking a strep test, advises the Cleveland Clinic. Your doctor swabs your child’s throat for a fast, in-office strep test. Many times, they do a secondary culture if the first comes back negative.

If your child does have strep or scarlet fever, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Upon treatment, the condition may clear up within a week. Healing can include scabbing and peeling on the skin, but not necessarily on the tongue.

If your child has strep or scarlet fever, their tongue may appear red and swollen as part of the illness. You should take them to the doctor so they can receive a proper diagnosis and prompt treatment to avoid complications. With a doctor’s antibiotic treatment, your child will be back at full speed in no time.