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Winter health

Information from the UK Health Security Agency


Health officials say parents should be aware of an infection called Strep A. Most people do not get extremely sick but the infection can cause serious illness.


What is Strep A?

Strep A is a bacteria sometimes found in the throat or on the skin. 

Many people carry it harmlessly without even knowing it, but they can spread it to others who might become ill. People can catch it through close contact with and from coughs and sneezes and the symptoms are usually mild, but it can cause scarlet fever. 


What is scarlet fever?

Scarlet fever is usually a mild illness, but is highly infectious. Look out for symptoms in your child which include a sore throat, headache and fever, along with a fine pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel.  This can be more difficult to spot on darker skin, but will feel like sandpaper.

A person with scarlet fever might also have a 'strawberry tongue' where the tongue has an appearance of a strawberry.

Contact NHS 111 or your GP if you suspect your child has scarlet fever, because early treatment of scarlet fever with antibiotics is important to reduce the risk of complications.

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.



Very rarely, Strep A can cause a very serious infection called invasive group A streptococcal infection (iGAS). Warning signs include:

  • fever - a high temperature above 38C

  • severe muscle aches

iGAS is very serious and the UK Health Security Agency advises 'Anyone with high fever, severe muscle aches, pain in one area of the body and unexplained vomiting or diarrhoea should call NHS 111 and seek medical help immediately.'

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