Rheumatic fever is a very rare but serious condition that causes inflammation in the heart, skin, brain, and at the joints. It most often develops following an infection with the streptococcus bacteria, better known as strep throat. If left untreated, rheumatic fever can lead to permanent heart damage and even heart failure in some children.
Rheumatic Fever Causes & Symptoms
Rheumatic fever is a delayed, autoimmune response to strep throat. Some children may have a family history of it, carrying a gene that makes them more susceptible to developing it.
It can also be brought on if strep throat is not properly treated with a full course of antibiotics.
Symptoms of rheumatic fever vary for each child, but symptoms typically appear about 2 to 4 weeks following a strep throat infection.
Signs that your child may have developed rheumatic fever include:
- High and prolonged fever
- Painful, hot, or swollen joints
- Small bumps beneath the skin or a raised, red rash
- Chest pain
- Abnormal heart rate
- Jerky, uncontrollable movements in the hands, face, and feet (sometimes referred to as chorea)
- Outbursts of unusual behavior, such as unexplained crying or inappropriate laughing
While there is no single test to confirm rheumatic fever, your child’s physician may seek a combination of the following:
- Blood tests
- Electrocardiogram, or EKG, to show heart activity
- Throat culture to test for any lingering streptococcus bacteria
Rheumatic Fever Treatment in Austin & Cedar Park, TX
Treatment for rheumatic fever involves a more potent course of antibiotics often having to be administered intravenously in a hospital setting. Additional antibiotics may still need to be taken for some time afterward on a regular basis to ensure the infection is completely gone. Depending on your child’s symptoms, anti-inflammatory medications may also be prescribed to decrease any swelling in the heart, muscles, and joints.