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Diagnosing scarlet fever

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Your GP can usually diagnose scarlet fever by looking at the characteristic rash and other symptoms.

To confirm the diagnosis, a sample of saliva is taken from the back of the throat (throat swab) and tested in a laboratory. This reveals which bacteria have caused the infection. A blood test is sometimes required.

Scarlet fever is a notifiable disease. This means that doctors must report any cases to the local health protection unit so they can monitor the spread of disease.


  • Blood test: A sample of blood is taken from a vein, using a needle, so it can be examined in a laboratory.
  • Bacteria: Bacteria are tiny, single-celled organisms that live in the body. Some can cause illness and disease and others are good for you.
  • Fever: A fever or high temperature is when someone's body temperature goes above the normal 37°C (98.6°F).
Medical Review: July 04, 2009

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