What to do if you suspect a child has scarlet fever or Strep A infection


Many of us will experience sore throats, colds and coughs over winter which usually go away without needing any special treatment or medicines.

Among these is Group A Streptococcal (GAS) infection which can cause a sore and scratchy throat also known as “strep throat”, scarlet fever, or skin infections such as impetigo.

Most cases are mild but in a very small number of children infection can enter the bloodstream and quickly make them very sick.

Investigations are currently underway by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) after reports of an increase in lower respiratory tract GAS infections in children over the past few weeks. It is thought that this increase is likely to be related to high amounts of circulating bacteria rather than a new strain.

As a parent, if you feel that your child seems seriously unwell, you should trust your own judgment. 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 unusually 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

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.

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital also has an online symptom checker, which will give advice on whether the symptoms can be treat at home or medical assistance is needed.

There is further information about local urgent and emergency health care services on this website.

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