Rheumatic Fever In Children: Symptoms And Treatment

When your child has a sore throat and a high fever, your doctor will likely swab for strep throat, and if the test is positive, start your child on a round of antibiotics to fight the infection. While strep throat itself is not serious, the group A Streptococcus bacteria can cause much more severe health complications if it is not treated. One of those complications is rheumatic fever.

What is rheumatic fever?

Rheumatic fever occurs when the group A strep bacteria spreads and begins to attack the tissue in your heart and joints. Rheumatic fever can damage the valves of the heart, and it is so serious that it requires prophylactic treatment for several years afterward, as contracting another strep infection can lead to complications, including rheumatic heart disease, once a person has suffered rheumatic fever.

Fortunately, this complication from strep infection is pretty rare in developed nations because an early intervention of strep throat infections with effective antibiotics greatly reduces the risk of getting it.

What are the symptoms of rheumatic fever?

However, because the fever itself can be such a serious health complication, its important to know the symptoms, especially if your child is recovering from a strep infection. Here are the symptoms to watch for:

  • rash. The rash for rheumatic fever is called erythema marginatum. It has a ring-like, raised appearance, with more red toward the outside edge, and darker, bruise-like marks toward the center. The rash is migratory and can move from one part of body to the other.
  • swollen joints. This swelling is painful and is also migratory--it can move from one knee to the other or spread to the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The joints will also be hot to the touch.
  • involuntary movements that are sudden or jerky in nature. These occur when the infection affects nerve tissue.
  • fever.
  • heart murmurs. As the disease damages heart tissue, the valves will show the damage and begin to murmur. This damage requires medical intervention to repair.

It's important to note that not all of these symptoms are always present when rheumatic fever occurs. One or two may manifest, while others might never show up. It depends on the individual progression of the infection.

How can you prevent rheumatic fever?

First, it is important to always get antibiotic treatment for your child if they are diagnosed with a strep infection. Continue to take the antibiotics for the entire course they are prescribed. Quitting the regimen early leaves your child open to contracting the disease. See your doctor right away if you notice other signs of strep infections, including a bright red tongue, bloody discharge from the nose, high fever, and a bright red rash. 

For more information, contact Kitsap Children's Clinic LLP or a similar location.