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Rheumatic Fever

Treatment And Prevention

Rheumatic fever is treated primarily with antibiotics. In severe cases of carditis, corticosteroids may be used to reduce inflammation. Because rheumatic fever tends to recur, patients must continue antibiotic therapy in order to prevent subsequent strep infections. Typically, this preventive antibiotic therapy should last for three to five years after the initial infection. Some researchers recommend that preventive antibiotics be administered until early adulthood.

Aspirin is useful in treating arthritis caused by rheumatic fever. In fact, if arthritic symptoms respond particularly well to aspirin, the diagnosis of rheumatic fever is strengthened.

Rheumatic fever can be prevented entirely if strep infections are diagnosed correctly and antibiotic treatment is initiated within ten days of onset. A severe sore throat that is red and swollen, accompanied by fever and general fatigue, should be examined by a physician and tested for the presence of strep bacteria. Patients diagnosed with strep throat must be sure to take their full course of antibiotics, as incompletely healed infections may also lead to rheumatic fever.



Dinsmoor, Robert. "Watch your Strep." Current Health 2 20, no. 7 (March 1994): 14.

Fischetti, Vincent A. "Streptococcal M Protein." Scientific American 244, no. 6 (June 1991): 58.

Guthrie, Robert. "Streptococcal Pharyngitis." American Family Physician 42, no. 6 (December 1990): 1558.

Harrington, John T. "My Three Valves." New England Journal of Medicine 328, no. 18 (May 6, 1993): 1345.


"Guidelines for the Diagnosis of Rheumatic Fever: Jones Criteria." Journal of the American Medical Association 268, no. 15 (October 21, 1992): 2069.

Kathleen Scogna


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—A drug that targets and kills bacteria.


—A molecule, usually a protein, that the body identifies as foreign and toward which it directs an immune response.

Aortic stenosis

—The welding of the leaflets of the valve that connects the left ventricle to the aorta.


—Inflammation of the joints.


—Infection of the protective layers of the heart.


—Rapid, random movements of the face, hands, and feet.

Human leukocyte antigen (HLA)

—A type of antigen present on white blood cells; divided into several distinct classes; each individual has one of these distinct classes present on their white blood cells.

Hypersensitive reaction

—An immune reaction in which the body's immune system overreacts to the presence of antigens in the body; may lead to disease.

Mitral stenosis

—The welding of the leaflets that make up the mitral valve of the heart.

Additional topics

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