Rheumatic Fever Symptoms & Causes

LIke ThisLIke ThisLIke ThisLIke ThisLIke This

Contact the Samara Jan Turkel Clinical Center

What is rheumatic fever?

Rheumatic fever is a delayed autoimmune reaction to the streptococcus bacteria, which usually occurs only if your child isn't diagnosed and treated promptly. Symptoms usually start one to five weeks after your child has been infected.

Is rheumatic fever contagious?

No. Streptococcus bacteria is contagious, but rheumatic fever isn't.

What are the symptoms of rheumatic fever?

Each child may experience symptoms differently, but common symptoms include:

  • joint inflammation, including swelling, tenderness, and redness over multiple joints. The joints affected are usually the larger joints in the knees or ankles; the inflammation "moves" from one joint to another over several days.
  • small nodules or hard, round bumps under the skin
  • a change in your child's handwriting, or unusual jerky movements
  • a pink rash with odd edges
  • fever
  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • stomach pains

Are there long-term effects?

Some children may develop heart disease, depending on the severity of their initial disease. Physical activity and sports may be restricted in your child, based on your child's physician's findings. Also, your child may need to receive antibiotics before having dental work done. This helps decrease the chance of infection migrating to the heart during the dental procedure. Consult your child's physician for more information.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944

Close