Winter traditionally sees an increase in coughs, colds and other respiratory illnesses but this year, there has also been an increase in a bacteria infection, caused by the group A streptococci bacteria, particularly among children which has resulted in a higher incidence of scarlet fever.

Group A streptococci bacteria can cause a range of other types of infection, such as skin infections (impetigo) and sore throat. In very rare cases, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause an illness called invasive group A strep (iGAS).

While still very uncommon, there have been more iGAS cases this year, particularly in children under 10-years-old. It is very rare for children with scarlet fever to develop iGAS infection.

It’s really important people use the right NHS service for what they need, so we can make sure we are helping those in urgent need. To help us help you, please try to use the right service.

Advice about what to do when you or someone you care for is ill can be found using NHS 111 online,, available 24-hours-a-day.

As a parent, if you feel 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 three months and has a temperature of 38°C, or is older than three 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.

Kate Langford, Chief Medical Officer at NHS Kent and Medway, said: “Winter always sees an increase in childhood illness and many of these will get better without the need to use the NHS with rest and drinking fluids.

“It’s always important to wash your hands properly to stop spreading bugs, and using a tissue when you sneeze or cough, which is then put in the bin.

“However, looking after children can be difficult especially when it comes to their health, and the NHS is here for you this winter. Please contact 111 online if you need further guidance. NHS 111 online will help determine what the best course of action is.

“NHS services are always busy at this time of year and waiting rooms have limited space. To avoid overcrowding, if you can, please limit the number of people attending with a patient, although we understand this is sometimes not possible.”

Useful information

What should you do?

Follow the links below

A parent’s guide

Regional Chief Nurse Acosia Nyanin provides advice for parents who are concerned about Strep A (Video)

UK Health Security Agency blog 

By Ed

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