Tuesday, 3 Oct 2023

Mums tell of horror as scarlet fever sweeps UK kids – as some catch it twice

Mums have been recalling their horror after their kids contracted scarlet fever this winter, as cases in the UK spike.

Last week Daily Star Online revealed figures which showed there have been at least 10,433 cases of scarlet fever – the so-called contagious "rash" disease – reported by Public Health England so far this winter.

There is compared to 7,519 cases reported for the same period the previous year – an increase of nearly 49%.

It comes at a time when the NHS is facing unprecedented demand as the UK battles against the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Following news of a rise in cases across UK regions with the North West worst hit, mums were quick to share stories of how their children have battled through scarlet fever – and how for some the disease returned and their kids caught it twice.

One mother said: "My daughter had this twice already this year!! Once Jan and once two weeks ago."

Another said: "My son has had this twice !! On a iv drip in hospital nearly 5 days. It's worst thing a child can have !! Definitely staying in doors!!"

While another mum said: "My four-year-old daughter has it and I'm sure I'm now getting it."

This worried mum shared on social media: "My 7 year has just finished 10day course of antibiotics for this."

While another said: "My 6yr old son had this last week!"

Children aged five to 15 are most prone to contracting the bacteria which is highly contagious through touch, coughs and sneezes.

Most recover but it can lead to more serious complications and can be fatal in rare cases.

Click on your region to find out how many cases have been reported:

(Number of scarlet fever infection notification rate by English region during winter 2018/19)

Although it's more common in children, adults can also get the illness.

Symptoms of scarlet fever

The first signs of scarlet fever can be flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature of 38C or above, a sore throat and swollen neck glands (a large lump on the side of your neck).

A rash appears a few days later.

The rash feels like sandpaper and starts on the chest and tummy. On lighter skin it looks pink or red. On darker skin it can be more difficult to see, but you can still feel it.

A white coating also appears on the tongue. This peels, leaving it red and swollen ("strawberry tongue").

The rash does not appear on the face, but the cheeks can be flushed.

The symptoms are the same for children and adults, although scarlet fever is much rarer in adults.

See a GP if you or your child:

  • have scarlet fever symptoms
  • do not get better in a week (after seeing a GP), especially if your child has recently had chickenpox
  • are ill again weeks after scarlet fever has cleared up – this can be a sign of a complication, such as rheumatic fever
  • are feeling unwell and have been in contact with someone who has scarlet fever
  • Scarlet fever is very infectious. Check with a GP before you go in. They may suggest a phone consultation.

Scarlet fever is often characterised by a pinkish rash which usually develops on the chest and stomach after initial symptoms which can include a sore throat, headache and a high temperature – much like coronavirus.

Dr Theresa Lamagni, PHE’s Head of Streptococcal Infection Surveillance, said: “Parents can play a key role in recognising when their child needs to be seen by their GP.

"Early signs to look out for are a sore throat, headache and fever with the characteristic pinkish red sandpapery rash appearing within a day or two, typically on the chest and stomach but then spreading to other parts of the body.

"If concerned that you or your child may have scarlet fever, you should contact your GP immediately, as prompt antibiotic treatment is needed.

“Symptoms usually clear up after a week and the majority of cases will not involve complications as long as the recommended course of antibiotics is completed.”

If you think that you or your child might have scarlet fever, contact your GP or ring NHS 111.

The health expert will then issue advice on how to proceed.

  • Coronavirus

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