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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.
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.
Rheumatic 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 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:
If your child has a fever, they might require immediate care. You should seek immediate medical care for your child in the following situations:
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 the following:
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 that increase your child’s chances of developing rheumatic fever include:
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 include:
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:
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.
Written by: Shannon Johnson
Published on: Aug 15, 2012
Medically reviewed on: Dec 04, 2015: Deborah Weatherspoon, Ph.D, RN, CRNA
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