Group A Strep & Scarlet Fever
In light of the current outbreak of Group A strep and scarlet fever, please see some further information below to ensure the health and safety your child/ren:
Scarlet fever is usually a mild illness, but it is highly infectious. Therefore, look out for symptoms in your child, which include a sore throat, headache, and fever, along with a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel. On darker skin, the rash can be more difficult to detect visually but will have a sandpapery feel. A white coating can also appear on the tongue. This peels, leaving the tongue red, swollen and covered in little bumps (called “strawberry tongue”). Contact NHS 111 or your GP if you suspect your child has scarlet fever, because early treatment of scarlet fever with antibiotics is important to reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia or a bloodstream infection. If your child has scarlet fever, keep them at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid spreading the infection to others.
Scarlet fever is caused by bacteria called group A streptococci. These bacteria also cause other respiratory and skin infections such as strep throat and impetigo.
Things you can also do yourself:
You can relieve symptoms of scarlet fever by:
- drinking cool fluids
- eating soft foods if you have a sore throat
- taking painkillers like paracetamol to bring down a high temperature (do not give aspirin to children under 16)
- using calamine lotion or antihistaminetablets to ease itching
How long scarlet fever lasts:
Scarlet fever lasts for around 1 week.
You can spread scarlet fever to other people up to 6 days before you get symptoms until 24 hours after you take your 1st dose of antibiotics.
If you do not take antibiotics, you can spread the infection for 2 to 3 weeks after your symptoms start.
In very rare occasions, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause an illness called invasive Group A strep (iGAS). While still uncommon, there has been an increase in invasive Group A strep cases this year, particularly in children under 10. There were 2.3 cases per 100,000 children aged 1 to 4 compared to an average of 0.5 in the pre-pandemic seasons (2017 to 2019) and 1.1 cases per 100,000 children aged 5 to 9 compared to the pre-pandemic average of 0.3 (2017 to 2019) at the same time of the year.
There are lots of viruses that cause sore throats, colds and coughs circulating. These should resolve without medical intervention. However, children can on occasion develop a bacterial infection on top of a virus and that can make them more unwell.
As a parent, if you feel that your child seems seriously unwell, you should trust your own judgement. 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 38°C, or is older than 3 months and has a temperature of 39°C 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
Call 999 or go to A&E if:
- your child is having difficulty breathing – you may notice grunting noises or their tummy sucking under their ribs
- there are pauses when your child breathes
- your child’s skin, tongue or lips are blue
- your child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake
*Symptoms of dehydration in adults and children include:
- feeling thirsty
- dark yellow, strong-smelling pee
- peeing less often than usual
- feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- feeling tired
- a dry mouth, lips and tongue
- sunken eyes
Signs of dehydration in a baby may include:
- a sunken soft spot (fontanelle) on top of their head
- sunken eyes
- few or no tears when they cry
- not having many wet nappies
- being drowsy or irritable
Good hand and respiratory hygiene are important for stopping the spread of many bugs. By teaching your child how to wash their hands properly with soap for 20 seconds, using a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes, and keeping away from others when feeling unwell, they will be able to reduce the risk of picking up or spreading infections.
This information is taken from UKHSA and the NHS website:
UKHSA update on scarlet fever and invasive Group A strep – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)