PARENTS have been urged to be on the lookout for winter illnesses as kids return back to school this week.
Cases of Covid and the flu are circulating in high levels across the UK.
Medics today warned that these levels are only going to continue to increase, along with high numbers of scarlet fever, which is caused by Group A streptococcus, also being reported.
The warning comes as data from the NHS shows that thousands of beds are occupied by flu patients.
Covid cases have also climbed, with the number of hospitalisations from the bug up.
In the last week, there were 3,746 patients a day in hospital with the flu, figures show.
There have also been at least 30 child deaths from invasive Strep A since September.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said infections remain rare and the majority of cases continue to be in the over-45s.
It said the data shows an “out-of-season increase” in Strep A and scarlet fever infections and a higher number of cases of both diseases than seen in a typical year.
There have been 33,836 notifications of scarlet fever this season, compared to 4,672 at the same point in 2017 to 2018.
Prof Susan Hopkins, Chief medical Adviser at the UKHSA today said that it’s important to minimise the spread of infection in schools and in other education settings.
She said that if your child is unwell and has a fever, they should stay home from school or nursery until they feel better and the fever has resolved.
“Helping children to learn about the importance of good hand hygiene is also key, so practice regular handwashing at home with soap and warm water.
“Catching coughs and sneezes in tissues then binning them is another simple way to help stop illness from spreading.
“Adults should also try to stay home when unwell and if you do have to go out, wear a face covering. When unwell don’t visit healthcare settings unless urgent, or visit vulnerable people,” she added.
Dr Ramsay said flu vaccines are still eligible for all groups and added that this is the best way to protect against the vaccine.
“We have seen good uptake in older age groups but vaccination among young children remains low.
“Flu can be very unpleasant and in some cases can lead to more serious illness. Getting your child vaccinated protects them and others they come into contact with, and it’s still not too late.”
When it comes to symptoms of flu, they may at first, seem like a common cold.
The NHS list the symptoms for flu as follows:
- sudden high temperature
- aching body
- feeling tired or exhausted
- a dry cough
- sore throat
- difficulty sleeping
- loss of appetite
- diarrhoea or tummy pain
- feeling or being sick
- less active (specifically children)
- pain in the ear (specifically children)
The most recent data from the ZOE Health study states that there are ten symptoms most Brits are experiencing.
- a sore throat
- a runny nose
- a blocked nose
- a cough without phlegm
- a headache
- a cough with phlegm
- a hoarse voice
- muscle aches and pains
- an altered sense of smell.
The NHS says that when it comes to scarlet fever, your child will most likely start off with cold-like symptoms.
The signs will include:
- high temperature
- sore throat
- swollen neck glands
- rash 12-48 hours after initial symptoms. This usually starts on the tummy and then spreads
- white coating on the tongue
- red cheeks
There are four key signs of Group Strep A to watch out for, according to the NHS. These are:
- A fever (meaning a high temperature above 38°C)
- Severe muscle aches
- Localised muscle tenderness
- Redness at the site of a wound
The invasive version of the disease happens when the bacteria break through the body’s immune defences.
This can happen if you’re already feeling unwell or have an immune system that’s weakened.
Two of the most severe examples of invasive disease are necrotising fasciitis – a very rare but life-threatening infection also called ‘flesh-eating disease’ – and toxic shock syndrome.
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