The rapid rise in Group A streptococcal (GAS) infections and associated deaths among children in the UK have made headlines recently, and parents are understandably very concerned. In this blog post, I explain what GAS is and how it is transmitted. I also describe how to recognise symptoms of GAS infection, what to do if your child has it, and, most importantly, steps you can take to minimise the risk of infection naturally.
GAS is a common bacterium that can be carried in the throat and nose as well as on the skin. It can cause upper respiratory tract infections, tonsilitis, pharyngitis, impetigo, cellulitis and, in some cases, scarlet fever. Usually, the symptoms of GAS are mild; however, in 10% of cases, the bacteria may pass into the bloodstream. This can lead to invasive GAS (iGAS) infection and complications, which may impact the heart, causing rheumatic fever; the kidneys, causing glomerulonephritis, and in severe cases, leading to Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Some children have complications due to immune dysregulation, and the impact is seen in the brain, leading to a condition called PANDAS – Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal infection. To read more about PANDAS and other associated conditions, please read my article published in the Autism Eye magazine.
According to government statistics, reported cases of scarlet fever are 3-4 times higher this year than the average for the same period over the past five years. Cases of invasive GAS (iGAS) follow a similar pattern, with substantially higher numbers reported this year. While still extremely rare, there has been a 4-5 fold increase in cases of iGAS in children under 10 and an increase in the number of reported iGAS-associated deaths in children under 10 (5 deaths this year, compared with 4 in the last high season for GAS infection (2017-18). There is no evidence that a mutated species of the bacterium is contributing to the deaths.
Pus (visible as white spots) on the tonsils or back of the throat
Enlarged lymph nodes
Cough (not often but should be considered as part of the picture)
Sandpaper rash on the body (scarlet fever)
If you suspect a GAS infection, it is vital to have a test carried out by your GP as soon as possible. Taking a swab from the throat, nose, and anus is the most thorough initial investigation. After that, testing the blood for GAS antibodies (indicating a more established infection) can be helpful if there are further complications.
GAS can spread through droplet infection via coughing, sneezing, and direct skin-to-skin contact. Washing hands and avoiding crowds can help lower the infection rate. In schools, this is going to be tricky. If you have a vulnerable child with an autoimmune condition or history of immune dysregulation, you may wish to work with your GP and your school to devise an acceptable plan to enable your child to continue their education safely.
If you suspect GAS, contact your GP immediately, who will advise on testing and treatment. The treatment usually consists of antibiotics which can be effective if given early enough. There are some concerns about antibiotic resistance, but your GP will advise you. Do not hesitate to give your child antibiotics if they are prescribed. You can work on healing the gut and rebuilding the microbiome afterwards.
In most cases, taking Saccharomyces boulardii is helpful. This beneficial yeast helps protect the gut from an overgrowth of pathogenic yeasts such as candida. Saccharomyces boulardii can be taken at the same time as the antibiotics. We recommend Floramyces by Designs for Health*. Please speak to your practitioner before administering any supplements. You can also take Optibac For Those on Antibiotics*, which contains specific strains of friendly bacteria, scientifically researched to take alongside a course of antibiotics.
Top up essential immune supporting nutrients:
Throughout the winter, ensure that all family members have an adequate intake of vitamin D, zinc, magnesium and selenium. All of these nutrients are fundamental for a healthy immune system. Please discuss the most appropriate products and dosing with your practitioner.
Stock up on your natural first-aid kit
Colloidal silver is one of the most effective natural “antibiotics” against GAS, with sound research and a solid evidence base behind it. Not all colloidal silver solutions are of comparable quality. The product that we recommend** is used as a throat and nasal spray, as GAS can establish colonies in the throat, tonsils and nasal passage. You can also use a gel on the skin if you suspect a GAS-related skin infection. Limit colloidal silver to a maximum of two weeks, and always check with your practitioner and medical professional before administering any supplements.
We have also found the homoeopathic Narayani War remedy very helpful as a preventative and during an active infection. Please order from Helios Pharmacy and ask for NARA MIX35 – 1M Narayani Combination Pillules 5.5gms Vibrational Essence.
PEA to calm inflammation
PEA (palmitoylethanolamide) is an anti-inflammatory compound produced naturally in the body. It can also be taken as a dietary supplement. It is a very safe and effective supplement that can be taken on a medium to long-term basis to manage the inflammatory response. PEA is particularly effective if there is evidence of neurological inflammation (PANDAS-type symptoms). We recommend PEA powder by BioMedica or if your child is especially sensitive to natural flavourings, use the Biomedica PEA 600 capsules which can be emptied into food or drink. As always, please seek the advice of your healthcare practitioner before introducing any supplements.
Follow an anti-inflammatory diet.
Keep your diet anti-inflammatory and pay close attention to any intolerances. Inflammatory foods include gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and processed sugar. Please make sure you work with your practitioner to ensure that your child has a balanced diet. Eat a rainbow of natural foods and good quality protein from unprocessed meat, fish, chicken, nuts, seeds, pulses and beans.
Raw honey to ease symptoms and fight infection
There is some evidence that active honey can be taken orally to soothe the throat and reduce the bacterial load. I love Artisan Raw Organic Greek Mountain Honey 21.5+ from The Raw Honey Shop. This is a dark, thick, runny honey. It is known as a honeydew because it is from the sap and resin of the tree, not from flower nectar. Honeydews are high in oligosaccharides, which nourish beneficial bacteria. They are renowned for their prebiotic qualities to help support gut health. Refrain from mixing active honey with hot water, as many benefits are lost through heating.
Balancing the immune system with Microimmunotherapy
An anti-inflammatory diet and targeted supplements are the cornerstones of building a strong and healthy immune system. In our practice, we have found that once the immune system has become dysregulated, we need extra help to get it back on track and, most importantly, keep it on track.
Micro-immunotherapy*** (MIT) is a safe and effective therapy to help re-educate and re-calibrate the immune system. Brainstorm Health is the world’s leading paediatric clinic using MIT, and each practitioner is trained to the highest standard to use it in their practice. It is a safe and easy-to-use therapy that has shown results exceeding any other therapy I have encountered. Each MIT programme is bespoke and requires a deep understanding of the patient’s history to implement.
While the recent surge in GAS infections, scarlet fever and especially the potentially fatal invasive GAS is alarming, the infection is easily treated with antibiotics when caught early. Always seek medical advice first and foremost if you suspect GAS. Alongside being vigilant and taking steps to help prevent the spread of infections, supporting your immune system by eating a diet rich in nourishing, whole foods, and supplementing some essential vitamins and minerals at times of increased vulnerability can go a long way to resourcing the body to fight off infections effectively.
*Use code SMC010 to get 10% off supplements at the Natural Dispensary.
**Use the code IA12LW to get 10% off supplements at Amrita
***If you would like to discuss MIT and are an existing active patient who has had a consultation in the past 12 months, please book an appointment to discuss your needs. If you are new to Brainstorm Health, please request a free Discovery call to discuss how we can help. If you have previously worked with us but have not had a consultation for over 12 months, you will need to register as a new patient. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with email@example.com for further information.