Understanding Rheumatic Fever -- Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Rheumatic Fever?

  • Swollen, tender, red, and extremely painful joints -- particularly the knees or ankles
  • Fever
  • A red, raised, lattice-like rash, usually on the chest, back, and abdomen
  • Nodules, or small protuberances, over the swollen joints
  • Sometimes, weakness and shortness of breath caused by heart involvement
  • Sometimes, uncontrolled movements of arms, legs, or facial muscles called chorea

These symptoms often begin two to four weeks after a strep throat infection has appeared to clear up. Sometimes, however, people with rheumatic fever do not recall having had a sore throat.

Call Your Doctor About Rheumatic Fever If:

  • You are experiencing the symptoms listed in the symptoms section, particularly if you remember having recently had a sore throat. You may have rheumatic fever and should receive medical attention.
  • You have a sore throat without other cold symptoms accompanied by a fever higher than 101 F and swollen glands in your neck. You may have strep throat and should receive medical attention.
  • You experience sudden and unexplained joint pain after recovering from strep throat.


WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on April 25, 2019



Braunbald, E. (editor). Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 16th Edition, McGraw-Hill, July 23, 2004. 

Behrman, R. et al. Nelson Essentials of Pediatrics, W.B. Saunders Company, 4th edition, January 15, 2002.

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