Understanding Rheumatic Fever -- Symptoms

Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on April 14, 2021

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



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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