Scarlet fever - etymology?

Why is it called scarlet fever?

My web searches failed to find a good explanation.
I did find that scarlet has something to do with a certain kind of blanket (and color of course)…but not the connection with the actual disease.

Grateful for a good explanation!

I got scarlet fever in college and it took the doctor about 10 seconds to diagnose it. Saw the reddish rash and concluded that I had scarlet fever.

That’s the teen craze caused by the disco version to Gone With The Wind.

Affects men who give a damn.

My grandfather and his 2 brothers had scarlet fever; apparently one version can cause heart damage, all of them died fairly early from heart problems.

My daughter had scarlet fever - a colorful name for strep throat with a red, sand-papery rash on the torso. It is my understanding that the idea of scarlet fever being dangerous in previous generations was because it could/would become rheumatic fever which can be serious and life-threatening. Today, one would take anti-biotics for strep/scarlet fever and that would take care of it.

Hmmm. Why would a febrile rash that looks like this and this be called “bright red blanket fever”?

It’s a mystery I guess.

(On review, sorry if that seems snarky. It is not meant to be.)

Oh. The two previous posts illustrate a common confusion, popularized by many movies and books. Scarlet fever is just having the rash with strep throat. Rheumatic fever are group of serious complications that can occur after untreated strep throat, whether the scarlet fever rash was present or not.

Another fun scarlet fever fact: sometimes after the rash goes away the skin can peel on the hands and feet like this. Loads of fun if you don’t know to expect it!

OED’s definition also explains the name. Earliest cite is 1676.

(bolding mine)

Wow, that certainly doesn’t look like a pleasant thing to have to endure.
I’m curious as to what causes that to happen. :confused:

Hey! My kid had a more severe form of that; Scalded skin syndrome.

It was about the same time I joined the boards and I think I went on about it a bit. It was related to the strep throat that I never noticed and she insisted wasn’t sore, even when she made experienced doctors recoil at the sight of it.

ETA: complete recovery. Very occasionally I’ll see the outline of some of the larger, deeper blisters but only if she’s very cold or ill.

Yikes! Glad yours made a complete recovery. :slight_smile:
How old was your daughter when that happened?
(That wasn’t her in the photo at the link, was it?)

No. She was six years old.

The nurses kept bringing around med students to have a look at her because it’s so rare these days.

Weird thing, my dad had scarlet fever when he was a young man. Mum says he never had the peeling off skin thing. The kid never had scarlet fever, just about 30% of her skin came off, she was treated like a severe burn victim.

Strep cases both, sometimes together, sometimes not.

Thanks for the info, maggenpye.

The bacteria produce toxins which get into the bloodstream cause these effects at sometimes distant sites.

In the case of streptococcus the scarlet fever rash and desquamation afterwards is caused by “erythrogenic toxins”; some of those toxins can also cause a toxic shock syndrome.

Scalded Skin Syndrome is usually thought of as being caused by toxins from staphylococci: exfolitins.

Toxic Shock Syndrome, with multi-organ failure, fever, low blood pressure, rash, so on, is caused by toxins called “TSST-1” from staphylococcus most commonly, and, as mentioned, less commonly by streptococcal erythrogenic toxins.

Lots of other bacteria produce harmful effects by way of toxins; what makes these ones special is that they do it by way of directly acting on T-cells and strongly activating specific aspects of the immune system. As a result they are sometimes referred to as “superantigens.”

To be honest no.
what actually happens is that the antibodies made to fight off the infection also attacks parts of the heart, skin and joints (sometimes even the CNS) . A process called “molecular mimicry” where antibodies cant differ between own cells and the invading ones. Hence R.F is an autoimmune reaction most notoriously causing problem with the heart valves.

The question and response was regarding Scarlet Fever, the desquamation after Scarlet Fever (the bolded part), and the exfoliation of scalded skin. Those are all toxin mediated events. What you are talking about is Rheumatic Fever, a completely different thing; the process you describe is the most attractive hypothesis about the pathology involved in Rheumatic Fever, but it is not fully established.

Again Scarlet Fever and Rheumatic Fever are not the same thing.

I had scarlet fever when I was seven, and a curious coincidence occurred. Until then I had been a skinny kid with little appetite. During recovery from the infection, my appetite suddenly increased, and I’ve had a weight problem ever since. My mother always insisted that the disease caused the change in my appetite, and I’ve always insisted it was mere coincidence.

Has anyone else experienced or heard of such a change, or am I correct in considering it a coincidence?

Nice picture on the Wiki page.

Well more likely a coincidence than anything else but there was some speculation that strep infections could trigger neuropsychiatric disorders, in particular OCD and tic disorders. It was called Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infection (PANDAS), and if it did exist then one could imagine the eating being a form of OCD, in a way. Only thing is that further research has led the experts to conclude that PANDAS is likely not real.