Scarlet Fever: Be Vigilant,
Not Alarmed Say Leeds Health Leaders


Local health experts are reassuring Leeds residents that the public health risks from Scarlet Fever remain low, despite a higher number of cases already reported this winter.

Scarlet Fever is a common seasonal childhood infection caused by the bacteria Streptococcus Pyogenes or group A Streptococcus.

Although Scarlet Fever is usually a very mild illness, it should be treated with antibiotics to reduce the risk of complications such as pneumonia and the potential spread to others.

If you suspect your child might have Scarlet Fever you should contact your GP or call NHS 111 as soon as possible, however you should seek urgent medical attention by calling 999 or attending your local accident & emergency department if your child; has difficulty breathing, there are pauses when your child breathes, your child’s skin, tongue or lips are blue, or your child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake.

The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency shows that cases of Scarlet Fever are increasing in England earlier than expected and are higher than would typically be expected at this time of year.

An increase in cases is typically seen in spring, however this unusual seasonal increase is likely to be a result of the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions implemented during the pandemic, and an increase in social mixing.  

Councillor Salma Arif, executive member for public health at Leeds City Council, said “I would urge all parents and carers to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Scarlet Fever, particularly the more serious ones, so they can seek urgent medical assistance if required.

“We can all play a valuable part in reducing the spread of infections and illness by continuing to practice good hand hygiene and encouraging our children to do the same.”

Victoria Eaton, director of public health at Leeds City Council, said “We are aware that what people see and hear in the media can be alarming, but while there is cause for being vigilant there isn’t cause for alarm.

“Our public health and education teams are working hard to ensure that parents, schools and early years settings have the correct information and the support they need. Alongside our colleagues from UK Health Security Agency, we are providing additional specialist advice and guidance to any settings with confirmed outbreaks.”


The early symptoms of Scarlet Fever can include a sore throat, headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting.

Often followed by:

A red rash, which may have a ‘sandpaper’ like feel to it. This usually appears first on the chest and stomach and can rapidly spread to other parts of the body. The red rash may be harder to spot on darker skin, although the ‘sandpaper’ feel is likely to be present.

Flushed red cheeks.

A white coating on the tongue which peels, leaving the tongue red, swollen, and covered in little bumps. This is often referred to as “strawberry tongue”.

If you think you, or your child, might have Scarlet Fever:

Contact your GP or NHS 111 as soon as possible

Make sure that you or your child take(s) the full course of any antibiotics prescribed even if symptoms improve.

Stay at home, away from nursery, school or work for at least 24 hours after starting the antibiotic treatment, to avoid spreading the infection.

In most cases Scarlet Fever is a mild illness, however, seek urgent medical attention by calling 999 or attending your local Accident & Emergency Department if:

Your child is having difficulty breathing – you may notice grunting noises or their tummy sucking under their ribs

There are pauses when your child breathes

Your child’s skin, tongue or lips are blue

Your child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake

As part of the local response all schools and early years setting in Leeds have been provided with UK Health Security Agency guidance on the management of Scarlet Fever including information for parents and carers on the signs and symptoms of Scarlet Fever, and when to seek medical help.

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