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What is Rheumatic Fever?Rheumatic Fever is an illness you can get from some untreated sore throats caused by a bacteria called Strep A (strep throat). The same Strep A also causes skin infections. Rheumatic Fever causes swelling with inflammation that can damage hearts. Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) is when hearts are permanently damaged by Rheumatic Fever. Usually only children get Rheumatic Fever but Rheumatic Heart Disease can last a lifetime.
How do you get Rheumatic Fever?After a Strep A infection, your body might have an autoimmune reaction. This is where your immune system reacts by attacking parts of your body such as your joints and your heart. This reaction can cause pain, fevers, swelling and breathlessness - this is Rheumatic Fever.
What are the symptoms of Rheumatic Fever?Symptoms of Rheumatic Fever include: - fever, - tiredness, - painful swelling in knees, elbows, wrists, ankles, hips and other big joints, - sometimes jerky movements, and - occasionally skin rash or lumps under the skin. If you or anyone in your whānau are experiencing the above symptoms, please see your doctor as soon as possible.
How will your doctor diagnose Rheumatic Fever?Rheumatic Fever is a diagnosis made from recognised combinations of signs and symptoms. These include physical symptoms, and signs on medical examination. They often include heart murmurs and hot swollen painful joints, acute arthritis, blood tests for evidence of recent Strep A infection and tests to scan the heart (called an echocardiogram). When the inflammation leads to permanent damage of the valves it is called Rheumatic Heart Disease. It has been diagnosed on a medical examination hearing heart murmurs, using a stethoscope or with an echocardiogram (scan or ultrasound of the heart), which let technicians and doctors finds how the heart valves are affected and the heart is pumping.
What are the treatments for Rheumatic Fever?If you are first diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever you will usually be admitted to hospital for care, pain relief and rest. The best way to prevent you getting Rheumatic Fever again, is to give you injections of penicillin every month for around 10 years. These stop further Strep A infections and keep your heart healthy. You might need other types of heart medicines or heart surgery depending on how severe the damage is to your heart.
How can we prevent Rheumatic Fever?We can prevent Rheumatic Fever by stopping the spread of Strep A throat infections and treating strep throats with antibiotics (penicillin). This means if you have a sore throat get it checked at your doctors or at school if they do throat checks. Throat checks are free for children. Treating skin infections is important too as it also limits Strep A spread. Please see a health professional if you or your child has a skin infection or sore throat.
Fact Checked by our Pū Manawa on 5th March 2021
Fact Checked by Pū Manawa on 5th March 2021
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