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Rheumatic Fever in Children: Care Instructions

Child sick in bed, showing parent giving child medicine.


Rheumatic fever is a disease that can harm the heart, joints, skin, and brain. It can occur after a child has had strep throat or scarlet fever that has not been treated. It does not spread to others.

The illness may make your child's joints ache and swell. Your child may have belly pain and a rash or bumps on the skin. Some children develop heart valve problems.

Your child may need to take medicine to reduce pain and swelling. If the heart valves are damaged, your child may need more treatment.

Your doctor will treat the strep throat with antibiotics. And your child will likely need to take antibiotics to keep rheumatic fever from coming back.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Make sure your child gets enough rest.
  • Have your child drink plenty of fluids. If your child has kidney, heart, or liver disease and has to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids your child drinks.
  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Your doctor may prescribe medicine to reduce swelling and inflammation. Your doctor may also recommend that your child take over-the-counter medicines. These include acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for fever. Do not use ibuprofen if your child is less than 6 months old unless the doctor gave you instructions to use it. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • After getting better, your child may need to take antibiotics before some procedures. These include dental work and surgery. Talk to your child's doctor before your child has any procedures or surgery.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing.
  • Your child has a new sore throat.
  • Your child has new or worse joint problems.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.