Rheumatic Fever: An Ailment From a Bygone Era

Rheumatic fever is no longer a common disease

Rheumatic Fever: An Ailment From a Bygone Era

Rheumatic fever is not a disease you hear much about in the 21st century.  It is a disease, however, that plays a minor role in my WW1 Trilogy. Hettie Bartlette’s father, Benjamin, suffers from the ailment.

What is rheumatic fever?  It is a complication that can result from streptococcal infections such as strep throat.  It also could be caused by scarlet fever.  Seeing as scarlet fever was a common childhood disease in the 19th century, this was probably the culprit for Benjamin’s infection.

Contributing factors also were poor eating habits and cold climate.

The fever was most common in children and young adults.

The symptoms include:

  • Fever, can be mild or up to 104 degrees
  • Join pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Nosebleeds
  • Rash
  • Twitching limbs

Lasting Effects of Rheumatic Fever

The fever can reoccur, and this can cause damage to the heart.  People who died of rheumatic fever generally did not die from the fever itself but from heart failure.

Antibiotics used to treat strep prevent the onset of the disease. Before the advent of antibiotics, all a family could do was keep a patient comfortable.

Today, rheumatic fever is categorized as an autoimmune disorder.  This is because the illness seems to run in families and often is accompanied by an auto-immune response.

The term rheumatism is a generic term that was extensively used in previous generations.  It was used to describe inflammation or stiffness of the joints, including arthritis.


Updated:  28 October 2020
Melina Druga
Most kids have an active imagination. My imagination has stayed strong into adulthood, and I’ve funneled that creativity into a successful writing career. I write history, both fiction and nonfiction, because although your school history classes may have been boring, the past is not. My goal is to bring the past to life in all its myriad of colors.
Back To Top