Rheumatic Fever Symptoms & Causes

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.