Strep A: should children go to school if there’s been an outbreak? Government advice explained

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Strep A can cause throat infection, scarlet fever or skin infections such as cellulitis or impetigo

A rise in Strep A infections in schoolds across the UK has prompted questions from parents about what to do if their child’s school had had a recent outbreak.

But should children still go to school if there’s been an outbreak and what is the current advice for parents? Here’s what you need to know.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Should my child go to school if there’s been a Strep A outbreak?

Strep A, which refers to  Group A Streptococcus (GAS), is the name given to a type of bacteria sometimes found in the throat or on the skin. It usually causes mild illnesses such as a sore throat, but can cause other infections such as pneumonia and scarlet fever.

There is currently an increased number of Strep A cases compared to normal at this time of year. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said there is no evidence that a new strain is circulating and the increase is most likely related to high amounts of circulating bacteria and social mixing.

Leighton Academy Primary School in the North West of England recently declared an outbreak of scarlet fever, the contagious infection caused by the bacteria that can lead to Invasive Group A Strep. One child has been diagnosed with it and attendance at the school has dropped to record lows.

Parents at the school gates told Sky News: "It’s really daunting knowing there’s a case at the school, it’s scary and we don’t want our children to get poorly."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Another parent whose child was in Year 1 added: "Getting the letter from school saying there was a case of Strep A made me feel quite worried. You have to think whether you bring your child in or not. I’d say shut the school and keep it shut until Christmas is over."

But what does the government advice say?

In a blog posted on the Department for Education’s Education Hub, advice from the UKHSA says that if you suspect your child may have Strep A they should not attend school and you should contact your doctor or 999 in an emergency. But, if there are confirmed or suspected cases in an education setting and your child is well, the advice is that there is no reason for children to be kept at home.

Strep A can cause throat infection, scarlet fever or skin infections such as cellulitis or impetigo. These infections are usually treated with antibiotics, but very rarely it can cause severe illness when the bacteria get into parts of the body that are usually free from bacteria such as the lungs, blood or muscles. This is called invasive Group A Streptococcal disease.

The symptoms of invasive disease can include: :

  • fever (a high temperature above 38°C (100.4°F)
  • severe muscle aches
  • localised muscle tenderness
  • redness at the site of a wound
Strep A can cause throat infection, scarlet fever or skin infections such as cellulitis or impetigoStrep A can cause throat infection, scarlet fever or skin infections such as cellulitis or impetigo
Strep A can cause throat infection, scarlet fever or skin infections such as cellulitis or impetigo | Kim Mogg/NationalWorld

If your child has scarlet fever, which is caused by Strep A, you should keep them at home until at least 24 hours after the start of antibiotic treatment to avoid spreading the infection to others. The first signs of scarlet fever can be flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature, a sore throat and swollen neck glands (a large lump on the side of your neck).

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A rash appears 12 to 48 hours later. It looks like small, raised bumps and starts on the chest and tummy, then spreads. The rash makes your skin feel rough, like sandpaper.

What should I do if I think my child has Strep A?

If your child becomes unwell with these symptoms, you should contact your GP practice or contact NHS 111 to seek advice.

The UKHSA said it is important to contact NHS 111 or your GP if you suspect your child has scarlet fever, because early treatment of scarlet fever with antibiotics is important to reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia or a bloodstream infection. You will need to tell NHS 111 or your GP if you or your child have been in contact with someone who has had Strep A recently.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.