Signs of strep A in kids - What is strep A and how to treat it

Signs of strep A in kids - here's what to look out for

Signs of strep A in kids illustrated by girl getting her throat checked
(Image credit: Getty images / Future)

Signs of strep A in kids are important to spot early, and with recent reports on deaths in primary school-aged children, it can be worrying. We spoke with expert Dr Stephanie Ooi to bring you all you need to know... 

Group A Streptococcus (strep A) isn’t new, it’s a bacteria that can cause recognised illnesses such as scarlet fever, strep throat and tonsillitis (opens in new tab), it can also cause other respiratory and skin infections such as impetigo (opens in new tab). In very rare occasions, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause an illness called invasive Group A strep ( iGAS ).

With reports of a seventh child dying after contracting strep A, the UK Health Security Agency (opens in new tab) (UKHSA) has shared a rare alert urging parents and carers to familiarise themselves with the signs of Group A streptococcal, also referred to and known as ‘strep A’ or Group Strep A’. GP at Myhealthclinic.com, Dr Stephanie Jen Chyi Ooi (opens in new tab) tell us; “As with all infections, there’s a spectrum of severity. And, in rare cases, bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause iGAS."

Strep A is nearly five times higher among young children than in pre-pandemic times, health officials confirmed. Dr Stephanie adds; "There has been an increase in cases this year - especially in those under 10 years old. A Gov.uk (opens in new tab) report that so far there have been 2.3 cases per 100,000 children aged 1-4 compared to an average 0.5 cases during 2017 - 2019.”

GPs have also been advised by UKHSA to refer to a 'low threshold' when sending children with symptoms to the hospital, so they can get antibiotics

Signs of strep A in kids: What to look for

Group A Strep can cause throat infections, scarlet fever or skin infections such as cellulitis or impetigo. These infections are usually treated with antibiotics. However invasive Group A Streptococcal disease can be very serious, and parents are being urged to be aware of the symptoms.

Dr Stephanie says: “While not all cases turn into iGAS we have to be vigilant of any signs of deterioration and worsening infection. Always seek medical advice if you’re concerned. If you as a parent feel something isn’t, trust your judgement. You know your child best.”

According to the NHS, Group A Streptococcus - or strep A - is the name given to a type of bacteria sometimes found in the throat or on the skin. It usually causes mild symptoms, like sore throats and skin infections. They add; However in rare cases, these bacteria can cause a severe and life-threatening illness called invasive Group A Streptococcal disease.

Dr Stephanie Ooi
Dr Stephanie Ooi

General Practitioner MBBS, Bsc (Hons), MRCPG at myhealthcareclinic.com

What are the symptoms of group A strep?

The main symptoms include it are not limited to; a sore throat, headache, and fever, along with a fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel.

  • sore throat
  • headache
  • fever
  • fine, pinkish or red body rash with a sandpapery feel

On darker skin, the rash can be more difficult to detect visually but will have a sandpapery feel. Dr Stephanie also advises seeking medical advice if;

  •  If your child isn’t eating or feeding as much as normal 
  •  Your child has had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more or is weeing less frequently 
  •  Your baby is under 3 months and has a temp of 38degrees 
  •  Your baby is older than 3 months and has a temp of 39degrees or higher 
  •  Your child is very tired and irritable 

What causes Strep A and is it contagious?

Many people carry Group A Strep harmlessly and do not develop the illness. It 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.

Dr Stephanie Jen Chyi Ooi said “Strep A is a bacteria and can present in different ways it can cause scarlet fever, it can also cause sore throat, tonsillitis, skin infections, it can be difficult to know if your child has Group A Strep.  Infection is normally mild, it rarely we’ve heard about in the news. 

How can you prevent strep A?

Good hygiene is a sure fire way to keep healthy this winter.  Dr Stephanie goes on to advise that to reduce the risk of picking up Group A Strep always wash your hands thoroughly; “Try and use a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and keep away from others if feeling unwell. And, while there’s no official guidance around sending your little one to nursery, if you’re worried and you can, by all means keep them home.”


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Stephanie Lowe
Family Editor

Stephanie Lowe is Family Editor at GoodTo covering all things parenting, pregnancy and more. She has over 13 years' experience as a digital journalist with a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to all things family and lifestyle. Stephanie lives in Kent with her husband and son, Ted. With his love of choo-choos, Hey Duggee and finger painting he keeps her on her toes.