Strep A – what every parent needs to know

Posted on:

What is strep A, how can you spot it in your child, and when should you seek medical help?

In the winter months there are lots of viruses doing the rounds that can cause sore throats, colds and coughs. Most should resolve without medical help, but sometimes children can develop a bacterial infection on top of a virus that can make them more unwell.

Infections caused by strep A bacteria include strep throat, impetigo and scarlet fever. Symptoms of scarlet fever include a sore throat, headache and fever, along with a fine rash with a sandpapery feel.

Most of the time, strep A infection is not serious. Children can be made more comfortable with children’s paracetamol and ibuprofen. If symptoms worsen, you should contact your GP or call 111. If needed your child can be treated with antibiotics

Rarely, the infection can cause serious problems this is called invasive group A strep (iGAS).  If at any time you are concerned, please follow our urgent advice section below.

Dr Chris Reid, Chief Medical Officer for NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Integrated Care Board is reassuring mums and dads and urging them to trust their instincts: “Strep A is a very treatable infection and it can be difficult to tell the difference between the many bugs children catch at this time of a year. As a parent, if you feel that your child seems seriously unwell, always trust your own judgement and follow the advice on when to seek medical help.”

The Handi paediatric app has advice on how to recognise and treat common children’s illnesses at home and when to seek medical help.

When your GP can help

You should contact your own GP during surgery hours or visit or call 111 out of hours, 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.

When you need urgent medical help

You should call 999 or go to the emergency department 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.

Swabbing is only used to diagnose scarlet fever if the clinician thinks it is essential. General cold and sore throats will not require a swab.

Useful links

Download the free NHS-approved HANDi app. It has an easy-to-use symptom checker and advice on how to treat common childhood illnesses at home, including Group Strep A. You will also find advice on when to seek further medical help, including calling NHS 111 for urgent health concerns or 999 for life-threatening emergencies

Guidance on strep A is available on the NHS website.

You can also find more information, including advice videos, on the NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly website.

Text Size

Change font