'Trust your gut': Derry mother speaks of ordeal trying to get child with suspected scarlet fever seen

A Derry mother has urged other parents to trust their instincts as she spoke of the difficulties she had in trying to get treatment for her daughter after she developed scarlet fever symptoms.

Christina Lynott’s daughter became unwell on Tuesday of last week, and at first it was assumed ten-year-old Katie had picked up one of the bugs or the flu currently prevalent in all areas across the north west.

However, when her condition worsened significantly last weekend and a rash developed, Christina said she repeatedly tried to contact Out of Hours only to be told there was no GP available, and despite taking her to Accident & Emergency it was only on Monday of this week that Katie was put on antibiotics after Christina made an emergency appointment with her own doctor

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Speaking to the Journal, Christina from the cityside said that thankfully the penicillin was now having and effect and her daughter, who is in Primary 7, was starting to come round.

Young Katie was displaying scarlet fever symptoms including a coated tongue and rash.Young Katie was displaying scarlet fever symptoms including a coated tongue and rash.
Young Katie was displaying scarlet fever symptoms including a coated tongue and rash.

"She took sick on Tuesday night. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday we thought it was just a cold or flu and were just giving her paracetamol and ibuprofen. Then on Saturday she declined really bad, her temperature wouldn’t come down.

"I phoned Out of Hours and they phoned back maybe two or three hours later and said that they didn’t have a doctor available to see her, that I’d have to go to A & E. They said it sounds like scarlet fever or Strep A.

"So I took her over to A&E and the doctor seen her there. At this stage her tongue was completely coated, sore throat, she hadn’t been eating, temperature, but they didn’t give her an antibiotic, they said ‘see how she goes’ and if she gets any worse to phone Out of Hours again the following day.

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"So I phoned Out of Hours on the Sunday and they said again that they said they had doctors available, that a doctor would possibly have to ring from Enniskillen and do a video call to make a diagnosis over the phone. I said, ‘that is really not good enough’. I waited for the phone call anyway and they phoned back at 2am, which was eight hours after I rang Out of Hours and they said, ‘sorry we have no-one available to take your call, you are going to have to go to your own GP in the morning’.”

Rash is a symptom of scarlet fever.Rash is a symptom of scarlet fever.
Rash is a symptom of scarlet fever.

Katie’s mother had offered to email in pictures of the rash covering her daughter’s arms and chest but was told there was no-one to look at them.

Christina insisted on an appointment the next morning and the doctor prescribed penicillin for Katie for suspected scarlet fever.

She branded the Out of Hours GP service over the weekend “ridiculous”, especially when “you are seeing on the news what is happening to children and that is just scaring you more.”

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"I got more care out of the pharmacist at Sweeney’s Chemist but obviously they can’t prescribe antibiotics,” she said, adding: "I know A&E is on their knees because of staffing and everybody is being sent to A&E.”

In a message to other parents, Christina said: “Don’t give up. Trust your gut, you know your own child.

"She is starting to come around but had she got the antibiotic when she was supposed to get it and seen a doctor on Saturday she would have come around quicker because she hadn’t eaten in five days.”

Christina said her phone has not stopped since she shared some details of family’s experience on social media. “People are scared; they are just afraid of what can happen.”

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The Public Health Agency (PHA) is advising parents and carers to be aware of the symptoms of scarlet fever following an increase in the number of cases at schools and nurseries across Northern Ireland.

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Strep A scarlet fever alert to all parents in Northern Ireland: symptoms and wha...

The warning was issued prior to reports that a young girl has died in Belfast with an illness linked to Strep A, which can also cause scarlet fever.

A number of other children in Britain have also died from illnesses linked to Strep A.

The PHA said it has seen an increase in notifications of scarlet fever which is “above the levels we usually see at this time of year”.

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Records show that there have been 104 cases reported in November alone this year, compared to just 13 cases in November 2021.

Scarlet fever is a bacterial illness that mainly affects children under 10 but people of any age can get it. It is not usually a serious illness, but can result in serious complications, therefore treatment with antibiotics is recommended. This helps to reduce the risk of complications and spread to others.”

Symptoms are non-specific in early illness and may include: sore throat; headache; high temperature; nausea and vomiting.

After 12 to 48 hours the characteristic red, generalised pinhead rash develops, typically first appearing on the chest and stomach, then rapidly spreading to other parts of the body, giving the skin a sandpaper-like texture. On more darkly-pigmented skin, the scarlet fever rash may be harder to spot, although the sandpaper-feel should be present.

What is Scarlet Fever?

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Scarlet fever is a common childhood infection caused by Streptococcus pyogenes (also known as Group A Streptococcus (GAS). These bacteria may be found on the skin, throat and other sites where they can live without causing problems.

Under some circumstances GAS can cause ‘non-invasive infections’ such as pharyngitis, impetigo and scarlet fever.

On rare occasions, they can cause ‘invasive infections’ such as streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, necrotising fasciitis (a life-threatening skin infection), and blood poisoning/sepsis.

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