Advice for parents and carers concerned about scarlet fever and Strep A

Published Tuesday 6 December 2022 at 21:16

As cases of scarlet fever and Group A Strep are higher than we would typically see at this time of year, the Director of Public Health for Blackburn with Darwen is offering advice to parents and carers.

Group A streptococcus (GAS) is a common bacteria – many of us carry it in our throats and on our skin and it doesn’t always result in illness.

However, GAS does cause a number of infections, some mild and some more serious. The most serious infections linked to GAS come from Invasive Group A Strep, known as iGAS – which is what we are currently seeing an increase in nationally.

Dr Merav Kliner, Deputy Director, UKHSA North West, said:

We are seeing a higher number of cases of Group A strep this year than usual in the North West. The bacteria usually cause a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be easily treated with antibiotics.

In very rare circumstances, this bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness – called invasive Group A strep (iGAS). This is still uncommon however it is important that parents are on the lookout for symptoms and see a doctor as quickly as possible so that their child can be treated and we can stop the infection becoming serious.

Make sure you talk to a health professional if your child is showing signs of deteriorating after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection.

Abdul Razaq, Director of Public Health for Blackburn with Darwen commented:

We understand that parents and carers are feeling concerned about the reported increase in cases of scarlet fever and the associated complication Strep A. I’d like to reassure them that most children with scarlet fever have only a mild illness that can be treated easily at home.

Developing a Strep A infection with scarlet fever is rare. However, in line with the increase in cases of scarlet fever this year, we are also seeing an increase in Strep A infections – particularly in children under the age of 10.

We have provided all education settings with information and advice. We want to reassure parents and carers, and are sharing information about what the signs and symptoms of scarlet fever and Strep A infection are, as well as the right action to take if they think their child has either infection.

The scarlet fever symptoms to look out for are:

  • flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature and a sore throat
  • swollen neck glands (a large lump on the side of your neck)
  • A rash that starts on the chest and stomach and spreads to arms and legs – and feels rough like sandpaper.

GAS infections cause various symptoms such as:

  • sore throat
  • fever
  • chills
  • and muscle aches.

Contact NHS 111 or your GP if:

  • your child is getting worse
  • your child is feeding or eating much less than normal
  • your child has had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more or shows other signs of dehydration
  • your baby is under 3 months and has a temperature of 38C, or is older than 3 months and has a temperature of 39C or higher
  • your baby feels hotter than usual when you touch their back or chest, or feels sweaty
  • your child is very tired or irritable

The infection prevention and control measures that we have become used to during the Covid pandemic can help to reduce the risk of scarlet fever transmission. Infection can spread through direct physical contact so it’s important to:

  • Wash hands regularly
  • Keep surfaces clean
  • Keeping children at home if they are unwell
  • Keeping indoor spaces well-ventilated to help fresh air to circulate.

Here are some useful links for more information on scarlet fever and Group A Strep:

NHS scarlet fever symptoms checker

Group A Strep – What you need to know – blog on the UKHSA website

UKHSA update on scarlet fever and invasive Group A strep


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