Pediatric Rheumatic Fever

Pediatric Rheumatic Fever

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Summary

Pediatric rheumatic fever is as an inflammatory response after a child is infected with group A streptococcus bacteria and isn’t treated promptly.  

Expanded Overview

Rheumatic fever isn’t an infection itself. First, the child is infected by group A streptococcus bacteria, which is responsible for strep throat and scarlet fever.

When a child isn’t treated for a strep bacterial infection in time, the body can develop an inflammatory response where the bacteria will attack healthy tissue. The most serious concern is damage to the heart. Joints can also be inflamed.

If children are treated promptly with antibiotics to wipe out the strep bacterial infection, they reduce their chance of rheumatic fever. The disease is rare in developed countries like the United States.

Rheumatic fever is most common in kids who are 5 to 15 years old.

Causes

A group A streptococcus bacterial infection – most likely strep – that isn’t treated properly causes rheumatic fever. Genetics may also play a role, making some children more susceptible to it.

Group A streptococcus bacteria is spread through airborne droplets when someone coughs or sneezes or by sharing food or drinks. If a child touches a contaminated surface and then their eyes, nose or mouth, they can become infected with strep.

Symptoms

After a child is infected with strep bacteria, it can take two to four weeks for symptoms of rheumatic fever to appear. Symptoms of rheumatic fever can occur throughout the body and include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fever
  • Heart problems
  • Joint swelling and pain
  • Lumps on the skin
  • Nosebleed 
  • Ring-shaped or snake-like skin rash on the trunk and upper part of the arms or legs
  • Shortness of breath

If the bacteria attack the nervous system, these symptoms can occur: 

  • Jerky movements of the face, feet and hands
  • Loss of control of emotions

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