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How To Prevent Rheumatic Heart Disease

How To Prevent Rheumatic Heart Disease

People who are diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease have a previous history of strep throat infections or rheumatic fever. In order to prevent rheumatic fever, it is important to address the root cause, strep throat. Rheumatic heart disease prevention primarily entails preventing rheumatic fever and strep throat.

Rheumatic Heart Disease: All You Need to Know

Rheumatic heart disease prevention: Stopping strep throat

The most effective way to make sure that your condition does not escalate into rheumatic fever is to treat your strep throat infection. But how do you get strep throat in the first place? Strep throat is caused by a contagious bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes, or group A Streptococcus. It is also known as group A strep or GAS.

What are the common symptoms of strep throat?

If a person is afflicted with strep throat, he may experience any of the following smptoms:

  • Sudden fever with 101˚F (38˚C) or higher
  • Sore, red throat with white patches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Difficulty in swallowing

This bacteria can easily be transmitted if you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth after being exposed. Since this bacteria is transmitted via droplets, you can also get infected when you are in close contact with someone who is coughing or sneezing. Sharing food and drinks is also another way for the bacteria to be transmitted.

Rheumatic heart disease prevention: Strep throat diagnosis

In order to determine if you have strep throat, your doctor will check for swollen lymph nodes and signs of inflammation in your throat. If you are suspected of having strep throat, the doctor will request for a rapid strep test. During a rapid strep test, your doctor will swab your throat with long cotton swabs to collect a sample.

It will take around five minutes for the results to come out. If your results come out negative, and your doctor still suspects that you might have strep throat, he will send a sample to another lab for further testing.

If ever you are diagnosed with strep throat, take note that no vaccine can help prevent it in the future. Keep in mind as well that every strep throat infection can lead to rheumatic fever, which can, therefore, cause rheumatic heart disease. Since strep throat is the primary cause for rheumatic fever, it is encouraged that you address any case of strep throat immediately.One of the most effective ways to avoid infection is to practice good, proper dental hygiene.

Rheumatic fever prevention tips: Things you can do everyday

When it comes to preventing rheumatic fever, simple habits that are nurtured everyday can significantly protect you from contracting the disease. Here are some of the most important.

Wash your hands

Due to our busy schedules, we often forget to wash our hands. Hand-washing remains to be one of the most effective approaches in rheumatic heart disease prevention. It prevents the spread of common bacteria that cause infections such as strep throat. Do not forget to wash your hands thoroughly throughout the day, especially:

  • Before you prepare and cook food
  • Mealtimes, before and after
  • Before you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • When in proximity to someone who is coughing or sneezing
  • When using the bathroom
  • After you sneeze, cough, or blow your nose
  • When touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

Use hand sanitizers

When soap and water is not available, you can opt to clean your hands using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Make sure to carry a bottle of hand sanitizer, preferably of 60% or more ethyl alcohol concentration,with you at all times. This will be useful, especially when heading out in public and travelling abroad where clean water may not be available.

Protect the people in your household

If you or someone in your household is experiencing strep throat symptoms, make sure to avoid sharing food, drinks, and utensils. Wash all their utensils and laundry in hot and soap water, which may more effectively kill the bacteria. Regularly clean and sanitize the common areas where you usually congregate. It would be best for the person with strep throat to self-isolate at home in a separate room. This is a simple yet effective method in rheumatic heart disease prevention.

Take antibiotics when prescribed by the doctor

People who are diagnosed with strep throat are usually prescribed antibiotics. Make sure to take it as prescribed by your doctor. Symptoms will usually improve within 24 to 48 hours of starting your medications. However, this will depend on the condition of your strep throat. As part of your rheumatic heart disease prevention, complete your round of medication to make sure that your strep throat does not lead to rheumatic fever.

What are the Possible Complications of Rheumatic Heart Disease?

What if your symptoms persist and a fever occurs?

If your sore throat persists despite taking medication, this can lead to rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. When it comes to rheumatic heart disease prevention, you must avoid strep throat cases from developing into rheumatic fever first .

Taking penicillin and other antibiotics (as recommended by your doctor) can further help treat strep throat infection and prevent rheumatic fever from occurring.

Penicillin injections can only be administered by your doctor or nurse as this may cause a little discomfort; a local anesthetic is applied first. Penicillin injections are scheduled every 28 days, and are injected into the buttocks or hip of the patient.

People who have been previously diagnosed with rheumatic fever are given maintenance antibiotic treatment. They may need to take this for an extended period of time, or sometimes, for their entire life to prevent any recurring rheumatic fevers.

Another standard approach in rheumatic heart disease prevention is antibiotic therapy. Studies show that it reduces the mortality rate of those diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease. Doctors may also recommend aspirin, steroids, or non-steroidal medication to reduce inflammation. For more severe cases, surgery may be needed to repair or replace the damaged valve.

If you are experiencing any symptoms, it is best to consult your doctor, so that he or she may put you on a rheumatic heart disease prevention treatment plan.

 

Learn more about rheumatic heart disease, here.

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Sources

Acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5810582/, accessed April 10, 2020

Treatment for Rheumatic Heart Disease https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/blood-heart-circulation/rheumatic-heart-disease/treatments.html, accessed April 10, 2020

Rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease https://www.who.int/cardiovascular_diseases/publications/trs923/en/, accessed April 10, 2020

Rheumatic Fever https://www.kidshealth.org.nz/rheumatic-fever, accessed April 10, 2020

AHA Guidelines on Prevention of Rheumatic Fever and Diagnosis and Treatment of Acute Streptococcal Pharyngitis https://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/0201/p346.html accessed April 10, 2020

Rheumatic Fever https://www.cdc.gov/groupastrep/diseases-public/rheumatic-fever.html accessed April 10, 2020

Revised Jones Criteria for Acute Rheumatic Fever | Ten Points to Remember https://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/ten-points-to-remember/2015/05/08/15/22/revision-of-the-jones-criteria-for-the-diagnosis-of-acute-rheumatic-fever accessed April 10, 2020

Rheumatic fever – new diagnostic criteria https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5911656/ accessed April 10, 2020

Prevention of Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/circulationaha.113.007855

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Written by Nicole Alexine Florendo Updated Aug 10, 2020
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel
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