Stop sore throats hurting hearts - get them checked

If your child has a sore throat get it checked, says the local Medical Officer of Health, as it can lead to rheumatic fever, a serious preventable disease which can cause permanent heart damage.

“Taking sore throats seriously helps to protect the health of our tamariki and rangatahi,” says Dr Phil Shoemack, Te Whatu Ora Medical Officer of Health at Toi Te Ora Public Health. 

Rheumatic fever can develop when a sore throat is caused by a bacteria called Group A streptococcus or Strep A. Sore throats caused by Strep A are known as ‘strep throat’.

“Fortunately, rheumatic fever is preventable, provided sore throats are treated correctly,” says Dr Shoemack. “If a ‘strep throat’ is diagnosed, the doctor or health provider will usually prescribe a course of antibiotics.”

Rheumatic fever often starts with a sore throat. A few weeks later the child may develop sore or swollen joints, skin rash, fever, stomach pain and jerky movements.  Although these symptoms may disappear, the heart valves may be damaged, and this damage may be serious and permanent. A child diagnosed with rheumatic fever needs ongoing medical support and antibiotics to stop further attacks.

Dr Shoemack advises parents and caregivers to get their child checked quickly by a doctor, nurse or hauora provider if they complain of a sore throat.

Children and young people at higher risk of rheumatic fever can also get sore throats checked at participating pharmacies in the Bay of Plenty. You can also call Healthline on 0800 611 116 if you have any immediate concerns about your child’s sore throat.

Tamariki are at risk of developing rheumatic fever if they are aged between 4 -19 years, have a sore throat and have one of these criteria:

  • are Māori or Pacific
  • live in high-risk areas including Eastern Bay of Plenty and parts of Tauranga
  • live in over-crowded housing
  • have a family history of rheumatic fever.

For participating pharmacies in the Bay of Plenty, visit:

For more on rheumatic fever, visit:

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