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What you need to know about Scarlet Fever and Group A Strep, advice before Devon’s deep freeze and flu jabs and healthy lifestyles

What do you need to know about scarlet fever and Group A Strep infections?

You may have seen in the news this week that there has been an increase in  Scarlet Fever and invasive Group A Strep infections in children.

Parents and carers know their children best, so we want to remind you of the symptoms for both illnesses and share advice on what to do if you are concerned about your child.

What is Scarlet Fever?

Scarlet fever is a common childhood infection which is usually a mild illness treated with antibiotics, 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. 

In very rare occasions, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause an illness called invasive group A strep. While still uncommon, there has been an increase in invasive goup A strep cases this year, particularly in children under 10 year old.

What are the symptoms of Scarlet Fever?

The early symptoms of scarlet fever include sore throat, headache, fever, nausea and vomiting.

After 12 to 48 hours, the characteristic red, pinhead rash develops, typically first appearing on the chest and stomach, then rapidly spreading to other areas, and giving the skin a sandpaper-like texture.

The scarlet rash may be harder to spot on darker skin, although the ‘sandpaper’ feel should be there.

Patients typically have flushed cheeks and may be pale around the mouth. They might also develop a bright red ‘strawberry’ tongue.

What is invasive Group A Strep (iGAS)?

Group A streptococcus (GAS) is a common bacteria. Lots of us carry it in our
throats and on our skin and it doesn’t always result in illness.

The most serious infections linked to GAS come from invasive group A strep, known as iGAS. In rare cases, an iGAS infection can be fatal.

Strep A infection is spread by close contact with an infected person and can be passed on through coughs and sneezes or from a wound.

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 and warm water 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.

You can help stop the spread of infection at home through frequent hand washing and by not sharing eating cutlery, clothes, bedding and towels. All used tissues should be binned immediately.

When should I seek medical help?

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

  • contact your GP or NHS 111 as soon as possible. Early treatment with antibiotics is important to reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia or a bloodstream infection
  • make sure your or your child completes the full course of any antibiotics prescribed
  • stay at home, away from nursery, school or work, for at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid spreading the infection to others

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

Read more about Group A strep on the government’s website

Warning and advice ahead of Devon’s cold snap

The Met Office has issued a severe cold weather warning to last from this evening (Wednesday) through to Monday 12 December, in most parts of England.

With such cold snaps comes increased health risks, to vulnerable people especially.

“Cold weather can have serious consequences for health, and older people and those with heart or lung conditions can be particularly at risk,” says UKHSA’s Dr Agostinho Sousa, Consultant in Public in Health Medicine.

“If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you should heat your home to a temperature that is comfortable for you. Try to heat the rooms you use most, such as the living and bedroom to at least 18 degrees centigrade if you can, and keep your bedroom windows closed at night.”

We also recommend wearing several layers of clothing rather than one thicker layer to keep warm. And ask that people look out for friends and family who may be vulnerable to the cold.

We’re also in regular contact with care providers that we commission in Devon, about their continuity plans for cold weather. They have arrangements in place to maintain services wherever possible, and prioritise by risk where necessary.

And the National Grid has given some funding that will enable Libraries Unlimited, who run our libraries in Devon on our behalf, to keep a few libraries open for longer hours, as warm spaces.

Read more about this on the news page of our website

It’s not too late to have your flu vaccination

People are being urged to have their flu vaccination, as an increasing number of children and adults are admitted to intensive care in the south west with flu.

The number of people admitted to hospital with flu in England has risen by 40 per cent in the last week, as cases in the community rise.

NHS Devon’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nigel Acheson said:

“In the last week here in the south west, there’s been a steep rise in people admitted to hospital with flu and sadly there has also a steep rise in both adults and children in intensive care units with flu. 

“In England last year there were 12 children hospitalised with flu at this stage of the year. This year it’s 230 under fives, so if you or your children are eligible, we really urge you to take up the invitation to have the flu jab.”

Parents are being particularly encouraged to have their two and three year olds vaccinated. The flu vaccination for children is a quick, painless and safe nasal spray that is effective against the flu virus. Flu can lead to very serious complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Vaccination offers the best protection against this risk by enabling children to build immunity against flu. 

Children in primary school will be offered a free flu vaccine at their school or a community clinic. Parents should look out for their child’s consent form so they can complete it and return it. If your child missed a clinic, you can contact the school immunisation team on 0300 247 0082 or

Other people who are eligible include unpaid carers, people who have lower immunity because they are pregnant or have a long term condition, people with a learning disability, frontline health and care staff and those aged over 50 years old.

Find a nearby pharmacy offering the NHS flu vaccine

Share your views on our healthy lifestyle service

Our Public Health Team is preparing for November 2023 when a newly designed Healthy Lifestyle Service will be launched.

The current service, One Small Step, supports adults with lifestyle changes including support to stop smoking, be more active, maintain a healthier weight and reduce alcohol consumption. The contract ends next year and the Public Health team is keen to hear from partners and residents to help review the service. 

Please help us by completing the health and wellbeing survey. The survey is anonymous and takes 10 minutes to complete.

Complete the health and wellbeing survey