Strep A Infections - Know the Signs
Strep A infections – know the signs
Parents are being urged to be alert for the signs of Strep A infections. This is also known Group A streptococcal (GAS) or invasive Group A streptococcal (iGAS) infections.
GAS is a common bacteria which can live harmlessly in our throats and on our skin. Sometimes it can cause mild illnesses like sore throats, occasionally more serious illnesses like scarlet fever and, albeit rarely, very serious diseases such as sepsis, pneumonia, or bone infections.
Most sore throats and coughs are caused by viruses that will get better by themselves without needing antibiotics. However, we want parents to know what to look out for and when to seek medical care.
Group A strep is usually something that is present and nothing to worry about, however what it can do is sometimes cause scarlet fever which is a common childhood infection that can be treated with antibiotics and need little medical assistance.
The symptoms of scarlet fever include a sore throat, headache, fever, nausea and vomiting and pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel. On darker skin, the rash can be more difficult to detect visually but will have the same sandpapery feel to the touch.
If your child has those symptoms, the best thing to do is seek medical attention by contacting your GP or NHS 111 as early treatment with antibiotics is important to reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia or a bloodstream infection.
While group A streptococcus bacteria usually only causes a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be easily treated with antibiotics. In very rare circumstances, these bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause serious illness – called invasive Group A strep (iGAS).
As well as an increase in notifications of scarlet fever, which is above the levels we usually see at this time of year, the Public Health Agency is also aware of a higher number of cases of iGAS being reported across the UK.
While iGAS is still uncommon, it is important that parents are on the lookout for symptoms of illnesses caused by group A streptococcus bacteria and seek medical advice so that their child can be treated appropriately and to help prevent the infection becoming serious.
Across North Lincolnshire there has been an increase in cases this year, particularly in children under 10. Nationally, there have sadly been some deaths. We want parents to know what to look out for and when to seek medical care.
- If your child has a fever, sore throat, or fine red or pink rash that feels rough (like sandpaper) read our advice below.
- If your child seems more unwell than usual or if your child is getting worse or this illness is different to their normal coughs and colds, please seek medical attention.
What to do if you suspect your child has scarlet fever
Scarlet fever mainly affects children under 10, but people of any age can get it. In the early stages, symptoms 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.
We are asking parents to contact their GP if they suspect their child has scarlet fever, because early treatment with antibiotics is important to reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia or a bloodstream infection.
Parents should contact their GP if they feel:
- their child is getting worse
- their child is feeding or eating much less than normal
- their child has had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more or shows other signs of dehydration
- their 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
- their baby feels hotter than usual when they touch their back or chest, or feels sweaty
- their child is very tired or irritable.
Call 999 or go to the Emergency Department 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.
- Don’t put off seeking help if your child continues to get worse.
Please don’t put off seeking medical help if your child continues to get worse and if you child is experiencing any of the signs above relating to difficulties with breathing or experience blue lips or skin, call 999 or go to your nearest Emergency Department immediately.
Although scarlet fever mainly affects children under 10, people of any age can get it. Strep A infections are spread by close contact with an infected person and can be passed on through coughs and sneezes.
So please practice good hand hygiene and remember to always, catch it (always cough or sneeze into a tissue, bin it (always throw the used tissue in a bin) and kill it (always wash your hands with soap and hot water).
Please consider that emergency departments are very busy at the moment – including GP surgeries. If you feel that your child can stay at home or be seen elsewhere, such as a pharmacy, please do so.
For further information on scarlet fever, visit https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/news/scarlet-fever.