What Is Rheumatic Fever?


Rheumatic fever, an inflammatory illness, causes inflammation of the heart and joints, among other bodily tissues. It’s a side-effect of strep throat and flares up when your immune system overreacts to an untreated case of strep throat or scarlet fever. 

This inflammatory illness most commonly affects children aged five to 15, but it can also present in adults.

On the bright side, as rheumatic fever is an immune reaction rather than an infection, you cannot catch it from someone else. Still, if you have strep throat or scarlet fever, the bacteria known as group A strep can spread to others through respiratory droplets.


Signs and symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Painful and tender joints in the ankles, knees, wrists and elbows
  • Fatigue
  • Red, hot or swollen joints
  • Flat or slightly raised and painless rash
  • Small and painless bumps under the skin
  • Heart murmurs
  • Uncontrollable body movements
  • Outbursts of unusual behavour, like inappropriate crying orlaughing


Risk factors:

  • Genetics. Due to one or more genes, some people may be predisposed to rheumatic fever.
  • Rheumatic fever is more likely to be caused by specific strains of strep bacteria.
  • Children of school age.
  • Environmental factors, like crowding and poor sanitation, make it easy for strep germs to spread among large numbers of people.


Stay safe 


If you've previously had rheumatic fever, you're more likely to get it again if you contract strep throat or scarlet fever. If your child has a fever, they should be treated right away. Get your child medical attention in any of the following situations:


  • For infants aged six weeks and up: a minimum temperature of 37.8°C.
  • Infants six weeks to six months old: a temperature of 38.3°C or higher.
  • A fever that lasts more than three days.


The goal of rheumatic fever treatment is to eliminate remaining group A strep germs and treat and manage the symptoms. Your child may be prescribed antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, anticonvulsants and bed rest.



The best way to avoid contracting or spreading group A strep infections is to cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing. Wash your hands frequently and do your best to avoid coming into contact with sick people. Teach your child good health hygiene habits, too.


This article is for informational purposes only. Always check with your doctor or medical practitioner about any health concerns, before embarking on any fitness or nutrition programme, and usage of any medication.