Rheumatic fever is one of the complications associated with strep
throat. It’s a relatively serious illness that can cause stroke, permanent damage
to your heart, and death if it’s left untreated.
The condition usually appears in children between the ages of 5
and 15, even though older children and adults have been known to contract the
fever as well. It’s still common in places like sub-Saharan Africa, south
central Asia, and certain populations in Australia and New Zealand.
Causes Rheumatic Fever?
Rheumatic fever is caused by group A streptococcus. This bacterium causes strep throat or, in a small
percentage of people, scarlet fever. It’s an inflammatory disorder.
Rheumatic fever causes your body to attack its own tissues after
it’s been infected with the bacteria that causes strep throat. This reaction
causes widespread inflammation throughout your body, which is the basis for all
of the symptoms of rheumatic fever.
Are the Symptoms of Rheumatic Fever?
fever is caused by a reaction to the bacteria that causes strep throat, group A streptococcus.
Although not all cases of strep throat result in rheumatic fever, this serious
complication may be prevented with diagnosis and treatment of strep throat.
If your child has any of the following symptoms, they should get a strep test:
- a sore throat
- a sore throat with tender and swollen lymph
- a red rash
- difficulty swallowing
- thick, bloody discharge from nose
temperature of 101°F or above
that are red and swollen
with white patches or pus
red spots on the roof of their mouth
A wide variety of symptoms are associated with rheumatic fever.
An individual with the illness could experience a few, some, or most of the following
symptoms. Symptoms usually appear two to four weeks after your child has been
diagnosed with strep throat. Common symptoms of strep throat include:
- small, painless nodules, or bumps, under the
- chest pain
- rapid fluttering or pounding chest palpitations
- lethargy or fatigue
- stomach pain
- painful or sore joints in the wrists, elbows,
knees, and ankles
- pain in one joint that moves to another joint
- red, hot, swollen joints
- shortness of breath
- a fever
- a flat, slightly raised, ragged rash
- jerky, uncontrollable movements of their hands,
feet, and face
- a decrease in attention span
- outbursts of crying or inappropriate laughter
If your child has a fever, they might require immediate care. You
should seek immediate medical care for your child in the following situations:
- a temperature over 100°F in newborns to
- a temperature of 102°F or higher in babies 6
weeks to 2 years old
- a temperature of 103°F or higher in children age
2 years or older
- a fever that lasts more than three days in a child
of any age
Is Rheumatic Fever Diagnosed?
Your doctor will first want to get a list of your child’s symptoms
and their medical history. They’ll also want to know if your child has had a
recent bout of strep throat. Next, a physical exam will be given that includes
- looking for rash or skin nodules, which are hard
bumps beneath the skin
- listening to their heart to check for
- performing movement tests to determine their
nervous system dysfunction
- examining their joints for inflammation
- testing their blood for strep bacteria
- performing an electrocardiogram, which measures
the electric waves of their heart
- performing an echocardiogram, which uses sound
waves to produce images of their heart
Treatments for Rheumatic Fever
Treatment will involve getting rid of all of the residual group A
strep bacteria and treating and controlling the symptoms. This can include any
of the following:
Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics and might prescribe a
long-term treatment to prevent it from occurring again. This treatment can last
up to five years.
Anti-inflammatory treatments include pain medications that are
also anti-inflammatory, such as aspirin or naproxen. Doctors may also prescribe
a corticosteroid to reduce inflammation.
Your doctor might prescribe an anticonvulsant if involuntary
movements become too severe.
Your doctor will also recommend bed rest and restricted
activities until the major symptoms like pain and inflammation have passed. Strict
bed rest will be recommended for a few weeks to a few months if the fever has
caused heart problems.
Factors for Rheumatic Fever
Factors that increase your child’s chances of developing
rheumatic fever include:
- a family
history because certain genes make you more likely to develop rheumatic
- the type
of strep bacteria present because certain strains are more likely to
lead to rheumatic fever than others
factors present in
developing countries, such as poor sanitation, overcrowding, and a lack
of clean water
to Prevent Rheumatic Fever
The most effective way to make sure that your child doesn’t
develop rheumatic fever is to treat their strep throat infection quickly and
thoroughly. This means making sure your child completes all prescribed doses of
medication. In addition, schedule a follow-up visit to ensure that your child
is free from strep bacteria antibodies.
Practicing proper hygiene methods can help prevent strep throat. These
- covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing
- washing your hands
- avoiding contact with people who are sick
- avoiding sharing personal items with people who
Associated with Rheumatic Fever
Once they develop, the symptoms of rheumatic fever can last for
months. Rheumatic fever can cause long-term complications in certain
situations. One of the most prevalent complications is rheumatic heart disease.
Other heart conditions include:
stenosis, which is a narrowing of a valve
regurgitation, which is a leak in the valve that causes blood to flow in
the wrong direction
muscle damage, which is an inflammation that can weaken the heart muscle
and decrease the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively
fibrillation, which is an irregular heart beat in the upper chambers of
failure, which happens when the heart can no longer pump blood to all
parts of the body
The long-term effects of rheumatic fever can be disabling if your
child has a severe case. Some of the damage caused by the illness might not
show up until years later. Be aware of long-term effects as your child grows
older. Children who suffer from long-term damage related to rheumatic fever may
be eligible for special education and other related services.