You may have seen recent national media headlines about scarlet fever – particularly in young children. Scarlet fever is an infectious disease caused by a bacteria (Group A streptococcal bacteria, or ‘Strep A’). Scarlet fever is usually a mild illness, but it is highly infectious. In very rare occasions, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause an illness called invasive Group A strep (iGAS). While still uncommon, there has been an increase in invasive Group A strep cases this year, particularly in children under 10. The increase is most likely related to high amounts of circulating bacteria and other seasonal viruses, and social mixing.
Therefore, 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. On darker skin, the rash can be more difficult to detect visually but will have a sandpapery feel.
Contact NHS 111 or your GP if you suspect your child has scarlet fever. If you feel that your child seems seriously unwell, contact 999 or go to your nearest A&E.
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. If no antibiotics have been administered, the individual will be infectious for 2 to 3 weeks and should stay at home for this period.
As this is the first winter without pandemic restrictions in two years, you and your children may be more susceptible to the usual winter bugs and viruses this year. We would like to encourage all parents and carers to ensure all vaccinations for flu and Covid are up-to-date. Winter bugs and viruses are usually mild, but can sometimes become more serious, particularly in younger children or if an infection spreads to a vulnerable family member. The UK Health Security Agency have produced a useful blog called ‘5 ways to protect your under 5s this winter.’