Scarlet fever and invasive Group A strep

Scarlet fever cases nationally are higher than we would typically see at this time of year.

Scarlet fever is usually a mild childhood illness, but it is highly infectious. It is caused by bacteria called group A streptococci. These bacteria also cause other respiratory and skin infections such as strep throat and impetigo.

Very rarely, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause an illness called invasive Group A strep (iGAS).

You can find more information, including symptoms on the Frimley Healthier Together website.

Scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is not usually serious but should be treated with antibiotics to reduce the risk of complications (such as pneumonia) and spread to others.

Symptoms include:

  • sore throat
  • headache
  • fever
  • 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

If you think your child has scarlet fever

If you think you, or your child, might have scarlet fever:

  • contact your GP or NHS 111 as soon as possible
  • make sure that you or your child finish the full course of any antibiotics prescribed - even when you start to feel better you must continue taking the antibiotics
  • stay at home, away from nursery, school or work for at least 24 hours after starting the antibiotic treatment, to avoid spreading the infection

Invasive Group A strep

In very rare cases, the same bacteria that causes scarlet fever can get into the bloodstream and cause an illness called invasive group A strep (iGAS).

Some people with iGAS have sepsis-like symptoms such as:

  • blue, pale or blotchy skin, lips or tongue
  • rash that doesn’t fade when you roll a glass over it
  • difficulty breathing or a weak, high-pitched cry - not like their normal cry
  • not responding like normal, for example, not interested in feeding or eating much less than normal
  • being sleepier than normal or difficult to wake

If you think your child has symptoms of iGAS

Trust your judgement when your child is poorly. 

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 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

Stopping the spread

Children and adults with suspected scarlet fever should stay off nursery, school or work until 24 hours after the start of appropriate antibiotic treatment.

Reduce the risk of spreading infection by:

  • frequent hand washing
  • not sharing eating utensils, clothes, bedding and towels
  • using a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes - throw contaminated tissues away immediately