Advice on Group A Strep and scarlet fever in children

This winter, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has seen higher cases of scarlet fever and Strep A than normal and we understand parents and carers may be worried.

You can find advice and guidance from the NHS Website and UKSHA on the symptoms and what to do if you think your child is unwell below.

Parents and carers can also download the HANDi Paediatric app, which gives up-to-date advice about common childhood illnesses and how to treat them. Developed by the children’s team at Musgrove Park Hospital, it provides expert advice and illness information, including Strep A, and can direct you to the most appropriate healthcare setting or information on how to care for your child at home if needed. Download the app for Android or iPhone.

Strep A - What should parents look out for?

It’s always concerning when a child is unwell. Invasive group A strep infections cause various symptoms such as sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches.

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 38C, or is 3 to 6 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
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

Most strep A infections can be easily treated with antibiotics. Visit the NHS Website for more information on Strep A

What is Strep A?

Group A streptococcus (GAS), also referred to as Strep A, is a common bacterium. Lots 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.

Read more from the UK Health Security Agency website on Group Strep A and what you need to know

Strep A can be responsible for infections such as scarlet fever.

The symptoms of scarlet fever include:
  • The first signs of scarlet fever can be flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature, a sore throat and swollen neck glands (a large lump on the side of your neck).
  • A rash appears 12 to 48 hours later. It looks like small, raised bumps and starts on the chest and tummy, then spreads. The rash makes your skin feel rough, like sandpaper.
  • On white skin the rash looks pink or red. On brown and black skin it might be harder to see a change in colour, but you can still feel the rash and see the raised bumps.
  • A white coating also appears on the tongue. This peels, leaving the tongue red, swollen and covered in little bumps (called "strawberry tongue"). The rash does not appear on the face, but the cheeks can look red. The redness may be harder to see on brown and black skin.

The symptoms are the same for children and adults, although scarlet fever is less common in adults.

Visit the NHS website for more information on scarlet fever with images.

See a GP if you or your child
  • have scarlet fever symptoms
  • do not get better in a week (after seeing a GP)
  • have scarlet fever and chickenpox at the same time
  • are ill again, weeks after scarlet fever got better – this can be a sign of a complication, such as rheumatic fever
  • are feeling unwell and have been in contact with someone who has scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is very easily spread. Check with a GP before you go in. They may suggest a phone consultation.

Find more advice on NHS Somerset