Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever occurs mostly in children aged between 5 and 15 and can cause serious complications in them. Swelling and pain at different parts of body (mainly the joints), skin rash (erythema marginatum), and a slight disorder of nervous system are the general symptoms that subside as the illness recedes but more worrisome possibility is the damage of heart in a child that may remain as permanent.

What Causes Rheumatic Fever?

The bacteria called streptococcus, that also causes strep throat, is responsible for rheumatic fever. It starts with conditions such as strep throat or scarlet fever that occur due to group A streptococcal infection in children, and then slowly develops into rheumatic fever, if left untreated.

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What Makes Rheumatic Fever A Serious Health Issue?

Rheumatic fever causes swelling of body tissues and skin rash, but a far greater risk involved with it in the form of a heart damage. In more than 50% of cases, rheumatic fever leaves the heart valves scarred for life. This scarring may narrow the valves and affect their functions adversely. This leads to a condition called rheumatic heart disease that forces heart to work harder in order to pump adequate blood for the body. Over time the rheumatic heart disease can lead to congestive heart failure.

Symptoms (Rheumatic Heart Disease)

It is not that rheumatic fever will invariable cause heart valve damage, but in some people the extent of heart valve damage is quite high which may need heart surgery. The damaged heart valves don’t allow pumping of blood properly in the body of the affected person who may feel the following effects -

  • ● short of breath when lying down flat
  • ● need to sleep with more pillows
  • ● more short of breath than others when doing the same exercise
  • ● short of breath when doing nothing
  • ● a lack of energy


Rheumatic fever is best treated in a hospital. The patients need to be at rest and go through a lot of tests that include blood tests and echocardiogram (to check the heart condition of the patient). Depending upon symptoms and the test results the patient may need to stay in the hospital for some weeks or months.

For treatment of sore joints, rest is vital alongside pain relief medications. Penicillin injections are applied on the patients to annihilate streptococcal bacteria. The first shot of penicillin will be administered before the patient leaves the hospital. Heart surgery may be required to mend the damaged heart valves.

How To Prevent Recurrence Of Rheumatic Fever?

Rheumatic fever may come back to your child after sometime. You have to make sure your child gets a shot of penicillin every 28 days. Penicillin eliminates strep bacteria and protects your child from getting the disease again.

Penicillin injections are painful. This often requires local anaesthetic, distraction methods and other ways to minimise the pain. Trained nurse can visit your home to push the penicillin injection to your child. The injection should be given -

  • ● every 28 days
  • ● in a muscle near their bottom or hip

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