CHILDHOOD ILLNESSES: RHEUMATIC FEVER

This condition is not nearly as common as it was years ago before antibiotics, but recent evidence indicates it may be on the increase again in parts of the United States.

Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory condition that always follows a streptococcal throat. If allowed to become severe it can cause permanent damage to the heart. It may also affect a person’s joints and nervous system.

Children between the ages of 5 and 15, in a group setting, are most commonly infected. The symptoms may also include weakness or shortness of breath caused by inflammation of the heart.

As soon as the diagnosis of acute rheumatic fever is made, an antibiotic, such as penicillin, is used to eradicate the streptococci. Aspirin or corticosteroid drugs are used to control the joint pain and inflammation, and to try to minimize heart damage.

The best way to prevent rheumatic fever is to get prompt treatment if you have a streptococcal sore throat. A sore throat with fever, which lasts longer than 24 hours, should be cause for medical attention.

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