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Strep A: What you need to know

Group A Streptococcus (GAS) is the name given to a type of bacteria sometimes found in the throat or on the skin, it can cause mild illness such as a sore throat.

GAS can also cause scarlet fever or skin infections such as cellulitis or impetigo. But most people carry the bacteria harmlessly and don’t develop an illness.

Rarely, the bacteria can cause severe and life-threatening infection known as invasive Group A Strep (iGAS). These serious infections are caused by the bacteria getting into parts of the body where it is not normally found, such as the lungs or bloodstream. This can happen when a person has sores or open wounds that allow the bacteria to get into the tissue, breaches in their respiratory tract after a viral illness, or in a person who has a health condition that decreases their immunity to infection.

Although iGAS is uncommon, there has been an increase in cases this year, particularly in children under 10 years of age.

What to look out for

GAS infections cause various symptoms such as sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches.

As a parent, if you feel that your child seems seriously unwell, you should trust your own judgement.

Contact NHS 111 if 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’s hands and feet become very cold
  • your child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake
  • your child is unresponsive
  • your child is having a seizure
  • your child is agitated or confused
  • your child has a rash that doesn’t fade when pressure is applied with a glass

How is Group A Strep transmitted?

GAS can be passed from person to person by close contact such as kissing or skin contact.

Most people who come into contact with Group A Strep remain well and symptom free, some get mild throat or skin infections. You can reduce the risk of picking up Group A Strep by always washing your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds, using a tissue to catch coughs and sneezes, and keeping away from others when feeling unwell.

Take a look at the following parent and carer advice on Group A Strep and Scarlet Fever from Damian Roland:

This video was not produced by Health for Under 5’s and may contain adverts.

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Page last reviewed: 06-12-2022

Next review due: 06-12-2025