“RHEUMATIC Fever is a serious but preventable disease,” assures Te Kupenga Hauora – Ahuriri’s School Based Nurse Te Rina Murphy. Working in five local schools, Rheumatic Fever is one of the illnesses she routinely monitors for in tamariki.
Caused by a virus that sits at the back of the throat (strep throat) Māori and Pacific children aged 4-19 are most susceptible to the illness, whose first sign is a sore throat.
“You can’t just let a sore throat go, it needs to be checked by a doctor,” says Te Rina, “if it goes untreated and they get Rheumatic Fever it can lead to extreme tiredness, sore joints, breathlessness and fever as well as heart damage.”
If she checks a child and finds reason for concern Te Rina also works with their whānau to make sure they get treatment and helps them to identify how they can avoid others getting sick. Visits to the home often highlight how living environment and life style is making it easy to spread illnesses. A warm home with separate living and sleeping areas can go a long way to staying healthy and preventing sickness. Te Rina can refer whānau to the Healthy Homes initiative if this is an issue.
Simple good hygiene can also help stop the spread of the virus. Regular hand washing, coughing into your elbow, blowing your nose on tissues and then throwing them away are all effective ways to reduce passing on bugs to others. This is the type of education Te Rina provides in classrooms for tamariki and teachers. “Last year we had one school in particular notice less absenteeism after I’d completed this education. The little ones pick it up so quickly.”
Never ignore a sore throat. If your child has one, make an appointment at your doctor or call Te Kupenga Hauora – Ahuriri on 06 835 1840.