Parents were rightly worried last autumn and winter when news broke that a serious illness caused by a Strep A infection was affecting children. Sadly, an unexpected number of children died due to the illness and many kids were sick over the colder months.
This short article explains what Strep A is, what caused the higher-than-average numbers last year, and what symptoms to look out for in your children.
What Is Strep A?
Strep A is a common type of bacteria that can cause illness in children but occasionally affects adults too. The illness caused by Strep A is usually very mild and won’t cause your child too much bother – children with a mild infection will be back to normal within a couple of days.
Occasionally, the infection can cause a serious illness when the bacteria enters the bloodstream, known as Invasive Group A Strep (iGAS). Thankfully this is very rare, and most children will have mild Strep A infections.
Thankfully, it doesn’t appear as though there has been another rise in the number of iGAS cases this year, although it is still possible some children will develop the illness. It is thought that the unusually high number of cases in 2022 was due to increased post-lockdown mixing. Many young children, and those born during lockdowns will not have had much exposure to bacterial infections.
Although iGAS is still a concern, most children with an infection this winter will have the usual mild illness associated with Strep A.
What Are The Symptoms In Children?
Stopping the spread of Strep A is difficult as the bacteria can be passed through any close contact with others, coughing, sneezing, and sometimes through contact with wounds. As with all infections, proper hand hygiene can help reduce the risk but as we all know, getting kids to regularly wash their hands is easier said than done!
Should your child get a Strep A infection, the illness will usually be mild, but some symptoms can be uncomfortable. Symptoms, according to the NHS, may include:
• flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature, swollen glands or an aching body
• sore throat (strep throat or tonsillitis)
• a rash that feels rough, like sandpaper (scarlet fever)
• scabs and sores (impetigo)
• pain and swelling (cellulitis)
• severe muscle aches
• nausea and vomiting
Treatment For Strep A
This is the tricky part…for most Strep A infections, you won’t even know what is causing illness in your child but if they have very mild symptoms, you can treat your child at home with children’s paracetamol. If they develop symptoms such as the rash associated with Scarlett Fever, you should contact your local GP surgery or call 111. Your child will likely be prescribed antibiotics to speed up their recovery. Your doctor may even take some swabs to confirm what bacteria is affecting your child –a Strep A test kit can be used to quickly confirm infection.
For more serious infections, you know your child best and if their symptoms persist or worsen, or you have any concerns at all you should call 111 and ask for further advice. The operator may advise you to attend an urgent clinic or accident and emergency department.
We hope this advice was helpful and you are a bit more clued up on Strep A and how it can affect children. In the meantime, keep encouraging your kids to practice regular handwashing and keep a distance from anyone who has visible symptoms of an infectious illness.