As the UK prepares for its first proper Christmas festivities in two years, more and more people have found themselves getting ill.
The last few festive seasons have been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic and its restrictions. But this year is the first without any testing, social distancing or isolation rules to follow.
However, people are still testing positive for Coronavirus – and parents have the added worry of rising Step A cases among primary school aged children, as well as flu cases climbing. The number of patients in hospital with flu in England has “skyrocketed” while Strep A is driving “near record” demand for NHS 111 services, new data suggests.
An average of 1,939 people with flu were in hospital each day last week, up 67% on 1,162 the previous week, according to NHS England. Separate data shows there were 721,301 calls to NHS 111 services last week, up from 706,129 the week before.
NHS England said this was “near-record” level demand and “significantly” more than usual for this time of year, up almost 60% from the 452,644 calls in the equivalent week in 2021. This rise in demand is understood to be partly driven by parents concerned about symptoms of Strep A.
Some symptoms of Covid, flu and Strep A can overlap, making it difficult to know which infection you have. But there are some key differences. Here are the signs to look out for.
The most-reported Covid symptoms in those who test positive for the virus can change. But the ZOE Health study provides the latest data on the top symptoms to look out for.
The world’s largest ongoing study into Coronavirus, it gives scientific insight into symptoms, vaccines, immunity and new variants. According to the latest data from the ZOE Health Study — from the 30 days before December 5, 2022 — the top symptoms reported by contributors with positive COVID tests are:
- 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
According to the NHS, the main symptoms of Strep A are:
- flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature, swollen glands or an aching body
- sore throat (strep throat or tonsillitis)
- a rash that feels rough, like sandpaper (scarlet fever)
- scabs and sores (impetigo)
- pain and swelling (cellulitis)
- severe muscle aches
- nausea and vomiting
The NHS website states: « Most Strep A infections are not serious and can be treated with antibiotics, but in rare cases they can cause serious problems. This is called invasive group A strep (iGAS) ».
The NHS advises booking an urgent GP appointment or getting help from NHS 111 if:
- your child is unwell and is getting worse
- your child is feeding or eating much less than normal
- your child has fewer wet nappies than usual or is peeing less than usual, or shows other signs of dehydration
- your baby is under 3 months and has a temperature of 38C, or is 3 to 6 months and has a temperature of 39C or higher
- your child is very tired or irritable
- Flu (influenza)
The NHS says the main symptoms of the flu include:
- a sudden high temperature
- an aching body
- feeling tired or exhausted
- a dry cough
- a sore throat
- a headache
- difficulty sleeping
- loss of appetite
- diarrhoea or tummy pain
- feeling sick and being sick.
The NHS adds that flu symptoms are similar for children, but they can also get pain in their ear and appear less active.