Information On Group A Streptococcus Infection (Strep A)

September 14, 2023

Information On Group A Streptococcus Infection (Strep A)

Strep A – also known as Group A Strep (GAS) – is a common bacterium that can cause a range of common childhood infections. In most cases, these are mild, but in rare situations the infection can lead to sepsis and other more serious complications known as invasive Group A Strep (iGAS).

There has been a recent rise in the number of infections caused by Strep A particularly in children between the ages of 1 – 4 years. Despite the increase in cases of Strep A,  invasive Group A Strep (iGAS) infections are still rare (about 6 per 100 000 of the population in children aged 1- 4 years). The fact that serious infection is still rare is really important to remember and a reassurance.

Parents must always trust their instincts and contact their doctor, or attend an emergency department if they feel their children are seriously ill or exhibit any signs of Strep A or scarlet fever. 

Sick child, toddler boy lying on the couch in living room with a fever, mother checking their temperature

What is Strep A Infection?

Strep A is naturally present on the skin and found in the throats of many people. Strep A being present doesn’t necessarily mean that a mild or severe infection will occur, but in some cases, this can happen. Most infections from Strep A are mild and will resolve after the use of antibiotics.

Infections caused by Strep A can affect the respiratory tract, soft tissues and skin, causing illnesses like tonsillitis, scarlet fever, impetigo and cellulitis. While people of all ages can get Strep A infections, they do most commonly affect the young or the old.

How do you get Strep A?

Strep A is highly contagious and is spread from contact with the mucus from the throat or nose of an infected person. This most commonly occurs when a person sneezes or coughs. Even if that person does not exhibit any symptoms, the Strep A bacterium can still be passed on and potentially cause an infection in another person.

Scarlet Fever And Strep A

Scarlet fever is normally mild and can be effectively treated using antibiotics. It typically begins with a sore throat and a high temperature/fever before developing into a red rash caused by Strep A bacteria. The red rash is most commonly found on and around the neck, elbow, underarm or groin area and can be itchy, painful and uncomfortable. Usually the skin feels dry and feels like sandpaper.

While scarlet fever can lead to serious complications, if treated early and effectively with antibiotics, the vast majority of children make a complete recovery.

Symptoms Of Strep A

There are many signs and symptoms that may indicate your child has a Strep A infection. It is always best to be vigilant of any new symptoms you might notice in your child, as early treatment is the best way to ensure that a Strep A infection doesn’t get worse. Some of the symptoms to look out for with Strep A infections include:

  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever, aches and pains, and swollen glands 
  • Sore throat 
  • Rash that feels rough like sandpaper 
  • Sores 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting

What To Do If Your Child Is Unwell

A parent knows their child best, so it is important to trust your instincts if you think your child might be seriously unwell. If you don’t believe the illness is too serious, you can care for your child at home, using over-the-counter remedies like child-safe paracetamol or ibuprofen. You should remain vigilant and watch out for any signs that their condition is worsening or if they start experiencing symptoms that are a serious cause for concern. 

If your child is getting worse, it is important to consult your GP or the NHS 111 service for advice. You should also take this step if your child is not eating, not urinating, or being lethargic.

If your child is:

  • Struggling to breathe
  • Pausing between breaths
  • Becoming floppy
  • Hard to wake up

You should call 999 immediately. If their lips or skin turn blue or grey, you should also call 999 immediately. 

Group Strep A Treatment

Most Strep A infections can be effectively treated using antibiotics such as penicillin. There are other antibiotics available for children with a penicillin allergy or if penicillin is not available . You should keep your child home if they have Strep A to help prevent the spread of the bacterium. Once a course of antibiotics has begun, your child will be able to return to school after 24 hours, as long as they are feeling well enough to attend. If your child has a more severe case of Strep A infection, they may need to be hospitalised to be monitored and treated.

How To Avoid Getting Infections

Prevention is crucial to avoid the risk of minor or serious infection from Strep A. The best thing you and your child can do is practice good hygiene. This includes:

  • Regularly washing your hands with soap and water
  • Using a tissue to cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing
  • Sneezing into the crook of your elbow if you cannot find a tissue in time
  • Frequent changing of toothbrushes and toothbrush heads is important as these can be a source of reinfection.

Always wash your hands straight after coughing or sneezing, and dispose of any tissues used immediately afterwards. You should teach your children about these safety measures to encourage good hygiene habits from an early age.

If you’re concerned about Strep A and want more information and advice, here at Childhealthy, we are ready to help. Our expert doctors have extensive experience with many paediatric conditions and illnesses, ensuring your child will be in the best possible hands. 

Get in touch with Childhealthy today to get the peace of mind you need for your child’s health. 






Disclaimer: Information contained in this article is intended as general advice and does not replace a medical assessment. If you are concerned about your child please contact your doctor for advice.


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