Many adults do not seek medical attention for a persistent throat infection in their children. This is fraught with danger, especially if the fever takes a turn for the worse. It is surmised that a group of rheumatogenic strains of Group A streptococcal bacteria discharge a certain contaminant which is harmful to the cells.
Another reason for rheumatic fever is thought to be the result of the havoc played by the bacteria and our cells. Rheumatic fever was very common till a few years ago and many children have suffered heart valve disorders. Thankfully, it is rare today, especially in the developed countries.
Rheumatic fever is not an isolated infection - it is the associated consequence of an infection such as strep throat, which has not been treated within a reasonable timeframe. Rheumatic fever is dangerous as it can attack the heart, leaving a permanent damage in its wake. Arthritis is yet another common fallout of rheumatic fever, though it is not a permanent disability. The nervous system could also be under attack by the germs causing rheumatic fever.
This week is 'Rheumatic Fever Awareness Week' in the world. This week is dedicated to creating awareness about rheumatic fever and its lasting damage on those afflicted. Parents will do good to be aware of the symptoms so that they can avert a major disaster. Importantly, the kids who have a family history of rheumatic fever must guard themselves and seek immediate medical attention incase of a strep throat infection.
Watch out for Symptoms
This fever almost always follows a recent, untreated and therefore persistent upper respiratory infection. One up to 5 weeks following such an infection is the critical time when parents need to be watchful for symptoms.
A well known symptom of the onset of rheumatic fever in children is the inflammation of the joints- especially the knees, ankles, wrists, with the swelling alternating from one joint to the other. This condition is medically termed as Migratory Polyarthritis. When this occurs, it is a tell tale sign of advancing Rheumatic fever. Parents must seek medical advice without delay.
Another well known and often occurring symptom amongst nearly 50% of the children with rheumatic fever is heart disease. The heart disease could manifest as heart murmurs, or fast paced heart beats, medically called Tachycardia. This could prove life threatening in the long run with severe and permanent damage to the heart.
Children could also portray symptoms such as jerky uncontrollable movements or even mild neurological problems. In some children nodules appear under the skin, which is an indication of the onset of rheumatic fever.
Timely Diagnosis and Effective Treatment
The lack of specific tests in labeling the diagnosis is a challenge to most medical specialists. A blood test is customary to detect abnormal readings; an abnormal ESR reading is suspect and therefore a cause for alarm.
Medical specialists employ the widely used 'Jones parameters' to ascertain the likelihood of rheumatic fever. They evaluate the major and minor symptoms especially if the child has suffered a recent Group A streptococcal infection.
When a child is suffering rheumatic fever, antibiotics are the first resort to kill the strep infection. The use of anti inflammatory medicines as well as steroids is also employed to aid relief to the child. The minor symptoms of rheumatic fever go away within a few months. Only those children suffering heart damage grapple the consequences of rheumatic fever for life.
The most important precautionary measure parents must take is to seek medical opinion if children suffer a persistent strep throat infection. Antibiotics must be employed to kill the strep throat infection before it could develop into rheumatic fever.
BE AWARE ABOUT RHEUMATIC FEVER. It is the first step to protecting your children.