Parents and carers in South Yorkshire are being asked to be on the look out for symptoms of Group A streptococcus, or ‘Strep A’, in children. Symptoms include sore throat, headache, fever and 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 when you rub your hand over your child’s skin.

Parents and carers who identify these symptoms should contact NHS 111 or your GP because early treatment with antibiotics is important to reduce the risk of complications, such as pneumonia or a bloodstream infection. If your child has scarlet fever, as it is commonly known, keep them at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid spreading the infection to others.

Parents and carers are advised to call 999 or go to A&E only if your child is having difficulty breathing, where 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 and/or your child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake.

Dr Nicola Jay, Consultant Paediatrician, said: “Our advice for parents and carers is that if you feel that your child seems seriously unwell, you should seek emergency care immediately. For babies, if you child is drinking or eating much less than normal, has dry nappy or hasn’t passed wee for 12 hours or more or shows other signs of dehydration, feels hotter than usual when you touch their back or chest or feels sweaty or is irritable please again contact NHS111 or your GP. Where a child is exhibiting the symptoms of scarlet fever, such as sore throat, headache fever and a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel, caused by Strep A bacteria, please contact NHS111 or your GP.

“We are seeing many more children than usual in our urgent and emergency departments and it is important that parents and carers understand where to seek help depending on the symptoms being exhibited. For the more serious symptoms, an emergency department is the correct place, but for the milder symptoms of scarlet fever, NHS111 or your GP will both help to stop the spread of the infection and ensure emergency services are kept for those seriously ill.” Having too many children in our ED departments who only have mild illnesses means that our doctors and nurses cannot give their full attention to those who are really ill.

Dr David Crichton, Chief Medical Officer at NHS South Yorkshire, said: “Nationally investigations are underway following an increase in the number of infections in children, although there is no evidence that a new strain is circulating. However, children can on occasion develop a bacterial infection on top of a virus and that can make them more unwell. Group A streptococcus is spread by close contact with an infected person and can be passed on through coughs and sneezes, so if your child is diagnosed with Strep A then they should stay at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment.”

The UK Health Security Agency advises that Group A streptococcus (GAS) is a common bacteria, which lots of people carry it in their throats and on their skin and it doesn’t always result in illness. However, it does cause a number of infections, some mild and some more serious. Whilst infections are still uncommon, there has been an increase in cases this year, particularly in children under 10.

For more information on Scarlet Fever please visit the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/scarlet-fever/