Rheumatic fever is caused by an infection in the throat and it can be quite fatal, but fortunately it is rather rare. It is usually a follow on from an untreated strep throat and symptoms often start 1-6 weeks after a strep throat has appeared to clear up. Rheumatic fever can also cause an inflammation of the heart, causing the valves of the heart to be scarred, this damage could then lead to rheumatic heart disease or even heart failure. Symptoms include:
Loss of appetite and weight
A red, raised rash, usually on the back, chest and abdomen
Swollen and extremely sore joints
Nodules over the swollen joints
Occasionally weakness and shortness of breath
Uncontrolled movements of the legs, arms and facial muscles - this does not always occur
The streptococcus A bacteria is responsible for this disease. The body reacts to the presence of this bacteria by producing antibodies to fight it, however these antibodies attack the body’s own tissue, usually starting with the joints and then moving on to the heart and surrounding tissues.
When to seek further professional advice
If you are suffering from a sore throat that is accompanied by a fever, if you experience sudden joint pain after you have recovered from strep throat or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms which are listed above.
There are alternative treatments which can be used with the antibiotics that are prescribed for rheumatic fever, although your doctor should make sure that the two treatments do not clash. Herbalists several herbs, one of these being garlic which is considered to be particularly effective as a natural antibiotic. A tea made from either Echinacea or goldenseal has also been found to be quite effective. Tea made from hawthorn should be drunk daily to help relieve the symptoms. Feverwort is often prescribed to help relieve the fever and the symptoms associated with rheumatic fever. Aromatherapists will suggest that you use lemongrass in a vaporizer or mixed with a carrier oil and used in a massage as it will help to relieve a fever. Homeopaths often recommend using Aconitum nacelles if a child is panicky and feverish, Dulcimer if the illness was brought on by damp weather, Mercury's soubise if the child sweats profusely and the sweat smells offensive, and Bryonia is recommended for children suffering from joint pains and thirst, it is essential that you get professional advice before using any of these treatments though.
Because of the use of antibiotics this disease has become rather rare as it is kept under control. If you do contract it though your doctor will advise that you get bed rest and he will also prescribe penicillin which will get rid of the streptococcal organisms. Your doctor should always be consulted if you suspect that you are suffering from this condition.
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