What you need to know about Group A Strep and scarlet fever

There has been lots in the news recently about Group A Streptococcus sometimes called Group A Strep or GAS, and children becoming seriously unwell. Some of these children have unfortunately become seriously unwell very quickly.

With winter viruses circulating in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, here is what you need to know about GAS and scarlet fever and what to do if your child is poorly. As a parent, if you feel that your child seems seriously unwell, you should trust your own judgement and seek medical help from your GP, NHS 111 or A&E.

Below is information for parents and carers in Cambridgshire and Peterborough about scarlet fever and Group A Strep. 

You can also find out more from UKHSA Group Strep A – What you need to know Blog

Group A Streptococcus (GAS)

GAS infections cause various symptoms such as sore throat called strep throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Usually these are mild illnesses, and your child should recover in a few days.

Signs that suggest your child might have strep throat are:

  • fever within the last 24 hours
  • white spots at the back of their throat (pus on their tonsils)
  • very large or red tonsils
  • sore (tender) lumps under their chin
  • if they have become poorly quickly over the past couple of days
  • no cough or runny nose.

If you are concerned that your child might have these symptoms contact NHS 111 or your GP surgery for advice.

Scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is usually a mild illness, but it is highly infectious. It is much more common in children than in adults. Therefore, look out for symptoms in your child, which include

  • a sore throat or tonsillitis
  • headache
  • fever (temperature of 38C (100F) or above)
  • painful swollen glands in the neck
  • with a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel. It's important to note that on darker skin, the rash can be more difficult to detect visually but will have a sandpapery feel. Brown Skin Matters website has more information about scarlet fever on darker skin

Contact NHS 111 or your GP if you suspect your child has scarlet fever or you think they have 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.

When should you worry

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