Friday, 29 November 2013

Scarlet fever - not quite consigned to the history books

This week had a rather unpleasant surprise in store for us as both the boys and myself came down with a mysterious illness.  Vomiting, fever and sore throats were followed by a rough-feeling red rash and extreme tiredness.  The strangest symptom was Ollie developing a bright red tongue as his rash started to fade.  Toby developed from the  slight rash on his face in this picture to a huge red rash coating his cheeks and forehead.

We eventually managed to get an appointment to see a doctor, and were told it could be viral, but the red tongue looked bacterial, so Toby and I were prescribed antibiotics.  Fortunately Matt was looking after us and took us to the doctor as I had lost my voice by this point.  The doctor said my throat was 'disgusting'.  After we had gone to the supermarket pharmacy to get our prescriptions and driven home, we got a message from the doctor saying we needed to go back and pick up a leaflet and a prescription for antibiotics for Ollie.  Matt duly went back out, and I got a message from him that we had, wait for it... Scarlet Fever!

I had no idea this was a disease people got any more.  Apparently it's quite rare now and not as serious as it used to be (no confinement to an isolation hospital for a start).  It mostly affects children between two and eight years old, and according to the NHS website there are between 2,000 and 4,000 cases diagnosed each year.  The sore throat is caused by Streptococcus bacteria and the rash result from toxins produced by the bacteria.  Most children over 10 will have developed immunity to these toxins, hence why adult cases are so rare.  I seem to have a rubbish immune system and I think was already weakened by having had bronchitis for the last three months (I'm a non-smoker, so this in itself is a bit of a mystery).

Ollie had started being tired and unwell on Friday, which I had put down to a chill from him getting soaked during water play at his nursery on thursday.  By Saturday he was vomiting and really unwell.  On Saturday evening he started to develop the rash.  By Wednesday he was just as cheerful as normal, although the rash has lingered.  I wasn't overly concerned as it looked like a viral rash he's had in the past and he seemed to be recovering well and not overly poorly, but the red tongue was a thing that didn't seem right at all.  Toby started to get ill a couple of days after Ollie and seemed worse affected, although is now making leaps forward with the antibiotics.  I got hit very hard with the throat - it was agony and there was very little gap between my tonsils.  My throat was even bleeding.  I was quite confused and was sleeping most of the time.  The antibiotics have also really started kicking in for me, to the point that I have been out of bed and awake for most of today.  Everything tastes really weird and metallic though and my tongue is starting to look like I've sucked one of those lollipops with the red dye in it.

This has been an educational experience in a way, although I could have been quite happy bumbling through life unaware that Scarlet Fever was not just a disease of the past.  Hopefully there isn't much else out there that the kids can catch.  Ollie got measles a few days before he was due his first MMR jab as a baby, and both boys have had chickenpox, and now Scarlet Fever.  These are all really easily transmissible diseases and by going to playgroups, nurseries, crèches and generally being out and about I have increased the chances of the boys being exposed to childhood illnesses.  this seems bad, but hopefully in the long term it is a good thing because their immune systems will be super tough and they won't suffer the worse symptoms and complications of developing childhood diseases in later life.

I don't intend to panic monger that there is some terrible epidemic spreading - there isn't - non of the groups such as nursery and crèche, or friends we saw during the week, have children with any symptoms so it looks like it was just one of those rare bugs that crops up from time to time.  I'm also not a doctor or a medical advice page - these are just our own experiences of this weird illness.  Further information is available in the link to the NHS page on the subject here.  Fingers crossed no-one reading this will need to know the symptoms and you are all having a healthy and happy time.