How to Spot Strep A in Children

June 7, 2023by Jamie Browning0

Strep A, also known as Streptococcus pyogenes, is a common bacterial infection that can affect children. Most Strep A infections are mild and easy to treat, but some can cause serious health complications.

This article provides parents with valuable insights on spotting Strep A symptoms in kids, seeking medical attention, and implementing preventive measures for their family’s safety.

What is Strep A and how does it impact children?

Strep A bacteria can cause a wide range of infections, from mild conditions like strep throat to serious and life-threatening complications.

Group a streptococcus infections are highly contagious and are especially concerning for children due to their still-developing immune systems.

In the case of Strep A infection in children, it usually shows up as strep throat which causes unpleasant symptoms like sore throat, difficulty swallowing, fever, and swollen lymph nodes.

This condition can be distressing for children and is highly contagious, spreading easily in close-knit settings like schools or nurseries.

A streptococcal infection can also lead to more severe complications such as scarlet fever and kidney problems. It is crucial to promptly diagnose and treat group A strep infections in children to prevent these potential complications.

Regular handwashing, avoiding close contact with infected individuals, and completing the full course of prescribed antibiotics are essential measures to contain the spread of Strep A and protect the health of children.

Suggested reading: If you want to find out more check out, What is Strep A: The Ultimate Guide by Ultima Environmental

Are Strep A symptoms more severe in children?

The symptoms of Strep A tend to be more severe and pronounced in children, causing significant distress and discomfort. Children may also not be able to effectively communicate their symptoms, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment.

According to the World Health Organization, children under 10 years of age have the highest risk of developing invasive group A Streptococcus (iGAS) infections.

These are life-threatening conditions caused by Strep A infections and can cause severe health complications such as sepsis and toxic shock syndrome.

What are the symptoms of Strep A in a child?

The NHS lists the following as common symptoms of strep infection:

  • Flu-like symptoms such as a high temperature, swollen glands or an aching body
  • A rash that feels rough, like sandpaper
  • Sore throat and difficulty swallowing
  • Scabs and sores
  • Pain and swelling
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea and vomiting
Common things to watch out for with Strep A infections

First signs of Strep A in a child

When it comes to group A strep infections in children, it’s important to recognise that each child may present with different symptoms.

While some children may exhibit classic symptoms of a streptococcal infection, such as a sore throat, high fever, and swollen tonsils, others may present with atypical symptoms or even no symptoms at all.

This wide range of symptoms and their variability can make it challenging for parents to identify a Strep A infection in their child. However, it’s important to maintain vigilance and be aware of any changes in your child’s behaviour or health.

How long is the incubation period for group A strep?

The incubation period for group a streptococcus infections typically ranges from 1 to 5 days after exposure to the bacteria. This timeframe can vary based on several factors, including the overall health of the individual, their immune system’s responsiveness, and the specific strain of Strep A involved.

Parents and caregivers should be aware that children may become ill and start displaying symptoms earlier or later than the typical incubation window.

What are the complications of untreated Strep A in children

If left untreated, Strep A can lead to potentially serious complications in children.

One common complication is rheumatic fever, an inflammatory condition that can damage the heart valves, joints, and other organs. Other complications of untreated Strep A infections include kidney problems.

Untreated Strep A infections can also progress to scarlet fever, a condition characterised by a distinct rash and flu-like symptoms.

Stats on iGAS infections in children

Government data shows that there have been 761 cases of iGAS infections in children this season (from 12 September 2022 to 7 May 2023). Sadly, this has resulted in 48 deaths.

While iGAS infections are still rare, the government reports that cases remain relatively high in children compared to what we typically see.

What causes Strep A in children?

Strep A can be transmitted from child to child through respiratory droplets or direct contact with infected individuals or contaminated surfaces.

In children, several factors can contribute to the development of Strep A infections:

  1. Close contact: Children often come into close contact with each other in school, nursery, or other group settings. This close proximity increases the risk of spreading the bacteria from one child to another.
  2. Weakened immune system: Children, especially younger ones, have developing immune systems that may not be as strong as those of adults. This can make them more susceptible to infections, including Strep A.
  3. Crowded environments: Busy settings, such as classrooms, provide an ideal environment for Strep A bacteria to spread.
  4. Poor hygiene practices: Children may not always practice proper hygiene, such as frequent handwashing, covering their mouths when coughing or sneezing, or avoiding sharing personal items. These behaviours can increase the risk of catching and spreading Strep A infections.
  5. Contaminated surfaces: Strep A bacteria can survive on surfaces for a short period. If a child touches contaminated objects, such as toys or doorknobs, and then touches their mouth or nose, they can introduce the bacteria into their system.

How can parents spot the symptoms of Strep A in kids?

Parents play a crucial role in identifying the symptoms of Strep A in their children. Recognising these symptoms early on can lead to prompt medical intervention and appropriate treatment.

Common Strep A symptoms to look out for include sore throat, fever, red or swollen tonsils, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash.

Tips for parents:

  • Not all children will exhibit the same symptoms, and the severity can vary.
  • Younger children may have difficulty expressing their symptoms, so you must pay close attention to any changes in your child’s behaviour, such as restlessness or difficulty sleeping.
  • If you suspect that your child may have Strep A, you should consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis.
  • Early treatment with antibiotics can help alleviate symptoms, prevent complications, and reduce the risk of spreading the infection to other children.
Pediatrician examining little girl with a suspected Strep A infection

How is Strep A diagnosed in children?

When a doctor suspects a Strep A infection in a child, they typically use a combination of clinical assessment and diagnostic tests to make an accurate diagnosis.

Here are the common methods used to diagnose Strep A in children:

  1. Physical examination: The doctor will begin by conducting a physical examination, paying close attention to the child’s throat, tonsils, lymph nodes, and overall symptoms.
  2. Throat swab test: The most common diagnostic test for Strep A is a throat swab. During this procedure, a sterile swab is gently brushed against the back of the child’s throat and tonsils to collect a sample. This sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis.
  3. Rapid strep test: Rapid tests can be used to detect the presence of Strep A bacteria in the throat swab sample. The test provides quick results within a few minutes, allowing for immediate diagnosis during the doctor’s visit.
  4. Throat culture: In some cases, a throat culture may be performed alongside or instead of the rapid test. This involves taking a throat swab sample and placing it on a culture plate to see if Strep A bacteria grow from the swap.

Suggested reading: If you want to learn more about the methods used to diagnose Strep A, check out What is a Strep A test?

How can Strep A be prevented in children?

Preventing the spread of Strep A in children involves promoting good hygiene practices, such as frequent handwashing, covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and avoiding close contact with infected individuals.

It is also important to treat any Strep A infections quickly and take steps to prevent the infection from spreading. If your child has a Strep A infection, the NHS recommends keeping them away from nursery or school for 24 hours after they start taking antibiotics.

The importance of keeping your home hygienic

Keeping your home clean and hygienic is crucial in preventing Strep A infections and keeping you and your family in good health.

Make sure to clean hard surfaces regularly with a good disinfectant like Byotrol 4-in-1 multi-purpose cleaner to eliminate germs and bacteria. If you’re too busy to do it yourself, you might want to think about getting a professional cleaning service to help out on a regular basis.

When should you seek medical attention for Strep A in your child?

The current NHS guidelines advise that you should contact NHS 111 or your GP surgery if your child has symptoms of a Strep A infection.

Call 999 or go to A&E if your child is:

  • Is having difficulty breathing
  • Their skin, tongue or lips are blue
  • They are having difficulty staying awake

Final thoughts

Recognising the signs of Strep A in children is crucial for early intervention and effective management. By staying informed, parents can play a vital role in safeguarding their children’s health and well-being.

If you suspect your child may have Strep A, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and guidance.

How Ultima Environmental can help

At Ultima Environmental, we specialise in professional disease control services, including Strep A, Norovirus, Covid-19, and Avian Flu. With over 20 years of experience, our dedicated team of biohazard cleaners provides top-quality infectious control and disinfection services in London and nationwide.

Visit our website or contact us to learn more about how we can assist in creating a safer environment for your family.

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