Ages & Stages

Strep A symptoms in children – how worried should I be?

Emma Harpham, Editor  |  11 Oct 2023

Fighting off seasonal snuffles when our children are in nursery or primary school is an all too regular occurrence – especially in the colder months.

Group A Streptococcus (GAS) or Strep A is a common bacteria that causes some of these short-lived sore throats and coughs in our kids.

In rare cases, children can develop Scarlet Fever, a more serious bacterial infection that can make them quite unwell – read up on the differences between Strep A and Scarlet Fever in our recent deep dive. 

Post-Covid, we’ve seen a rise in more serious cases of Strep A in children in the UK. This can be concerning for us as parents and caregivers – and we want to start by stressing that if your whole family has got the lurgy, your kids will usually bounce back quicker than you do!

However, if you do suspect Strep A in your child and you’re feeling anxious about it, it can be useful to know how to spot the signs of more serious illness.

Read our quick guide to Strep A symptoms in children and the treatments available – and contact your doctor if worries remain.

How can I prevent Strep A in kids?

Strep A can appear on the skin as psoriasis, or in the throat. It spreads through direct physical contact, so taking basic hygiene precautions can help to safeguard your little one. 

Encourage your kids to regularly wash their hands using warm water and soap, particularly before meals and following interactions with other children. Teach them to cover their coughs and sneezes – and to bin soggy tissues afterwards!

If your child is feeling poorly, it’s important to keep them away from other people – especially if they have a fever.

Strep A symptoms in children

On the whole, symptoms of Strep A in kids are mild. 

The NHS tells us to look out for the following:

  • Flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature and swollen glands
  • A sore throat
  • Scabs and sores 
  • Pain and swelling
  • Severe muscle aches

More serious cases of Strep A or Scarlet Fever can include a bad sore throat which makes eating and swallowing very difficult, accompanied by a fever, headache and a distinct pink or red rash across the body that has a sandpaper-like texture. It may be challenging to spot the rash on darker skin.

Toddlers may also experience abdominal pain and/or vomiting.

A sore throat or Strep A?

Worried that your kid’s sore throat is actually Strep A? A sore throat is a very common complaint in children that is frequently caused by a virus, unlike Strep A which is bacterial. If a sore throat persists, talk to your doctor – they’ll be able to reassure you by doing a quick throat swab to identify the cause.

strep a symptoms in children

Strep A treatment

The good news is that antibiotics are the standard treatment for kids once diagnosed, and over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen and paracetamol do a great job of controlling fever and providing pain relief. Kids should be kept home from nursery or school, and symptoms should clear up within three to five days

Very rarely, Strep A can infect the bloodstream. This is known as invasive Group A streptococcus (iGAS) and requires emergency treatment. Call 999 or go to A&E if your child is showing signs of bloodstream infection.

The final word on Strep A

Whilst Strep A can feel particularly anxiety-inducing as parents, the key takeaway here is that we shouldn’t be too worried.

Remember that;

  • A sore throat doesn’t necessarily mean Strep A 
  • The main symptoms include a sore throat that makes it difficult to swallow plus a fever
  • Getting advice from a medical professional is the best thing if you do suspect Strep A
  • Antibiotics should stop kids being contagious in 24 hrs
  • Serious cases are very rare

If symptoms don’t clear up and you’re still worried, call NHS 111.

At The Ribbon Box, we’re here to support you through the highs and lows of pregnancy and parenthood. Join the community to stay up to date, and get practical support and handy tips just like these delivered straight to your inbox.

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