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Advice for parents about scarlet fever and Strep A

This article is more than one year old.

This article is from 6 December 2022 - the situation may change with time

The country is seeing a higher number of cases of scarlet fever this year.

Scarlet fever is usually a mild illness, but it is highly infectious. It is important to look out for symptoms in your child, which can 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.

Scarlet fever is caused by a bacteria called Group A streptococci ('strep'). These bacteria also cause other respiratory and skin infections such as strep throat and impetigo.

Contact NHS 111 or your GP if you suspect your child has scarlet fever, 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, keep them at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatments to avoid spreading the infection to others. 

There are lots of viruses around at the moment that cause sore throats, colds and coughs.

These should get better without medical intervention. However, sometimes children can develop a bacterial infection on top of a virus which can make them more unwell.

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 has 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.

Good hand and respiratory hygiene are important for stopping the spread of many bugs. By teaching your child how to wash their hands properly with soap for 20 seconds, using a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes, and keeping away from others when feeling unwell, they will be able to reduce the risk of picking up or spreading infections.

More information on scarlet fever and Group A strep is available on the government website:

UKHSA update on scarlet fever and invasive Group A strep