Recent increases of serious illness in children due to infection with Group A Strep (GAS) is a cause for concern. Here are a few key points, and a useful Health Security Agency document link.
Group A Strep is a common bacterium; lots of us carry it in our throats or on our skin and it doesn’t necessarily make us ill.
But, it can be a cause of both mild and severe illness.
Milder infections caused by GAS include tonsillitis & sore throat (‘Strep Throat’), skin infections (cellulitis and impetigo), and scarlet fever. These can be easily treated with antibiotics. A swap test can be used to diagnose the bacteria, though is not always required. Mild illness may resolve alone, or require a short course of antibiotics.
Infections get more serious when they get into organs or the blood stream: Invasive Group A Strep (iGAS). These can be life threatening and need urgent medical care.
Rheumatic fever is also a rare complication of GAS.
Spread is by close contact, especially from wounds, or from coughs and sneezes. Good hand hygiene is important to reduce spread. With antibiotics, people quickly become non-infectious within about 24hrs.
Spotting Scarlet fever; look out for fever, flu-like symptoms, sore throat, swollen neck glands, and 24-48hrs later a rough rash that feels a bit like sandpaper: it looks looks like small, raised bumps and starts on the chest and tummy, then spreads. On white skin the rash looks pink or red. On brown and black skin it might be harder to see a change in colour.
Diagnosis and early antibiotics for Scarlet Fever is important to reduce the risks of more serious invasive infection. Overall, the risk of serious infection is low.
Contact NHS 111 or your GP if you suspect your child has scarlet fever.
As a parent, if you feel that your child seems seriously unwell, you should trust your own judgement and seek urgent medical review. If you believe your child is very seriously unwell, consider going to your nearest emergency department or call 999.
Full government and NHS advice can be found here: