Group A streptococcus and scarlet fever

Find out about Group A streptococcal (GAS) infections, the symptoms of scarlet fever and what to do if your child has scarlet fever.

There has been an increase in cases of scarlet fever being reported to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). This is above what we would expect for winter. Scarlet fever is caused by the bacteria Group A streptococcus, which on very rare occasions can cause more serious disease if it gets into the bloodstream or lungs.

Look out for symptoms of scarlet fever in your child

The symptoms include:

  • sore throat
  • headache
  • fever
  • a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel on paler skin
  • on darker skin the rash can be more difficult to see, but will have a sandpapery feel

What to do if you think your child has scarlet fever

If you think your child has scarlet fever you should contact:

How antibiotics can help if your child has scarlet fever

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 treatment. This is to avoid spreading the infection to others.          

What to do if your child becomes seriously unwell

As a parent, you should trust your own judgement.

Contact NHS 111 or your GP if your child:

  • is getting worse
  • is feeding or eating much less than normal
  • has had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more or shows other signs of dehydration
  • is very tired or irritable

Or if your baby:

  • is under three months and has a temperature of 38C, or is older than three months and has a temperature of 39C or higher
  • feels hotter than usual when you touch their back or chest, or feels sweaty

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.

Further information for parents and residents on Group A strep and scarlet fever

Further information for education and childcare settings on Group A strep and scarlet fever


Page last updated: 27 June 2023


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