The voluminous literature that has appeared in the last few years confirms the observation made by Sir Thomas Watson in 1843 that rheumatic fever is a disease of childhood. It also suggests that the many reported cases of heart disease appearing at different periods of life have their origin in rheumatic fever of childhood—thus a pediatric problem.
Rheumatic fever is an acute or chronic systemic disease probably of infectious origin characterized by fever, joint, muscular, skin and nervous manifestations which frequently involves the heart and has a tendency to recur.
Hippocrates was credited by Chomel with describing acute arthritis. The term rheumatism was first used by Ballonius (Baillou) (1535-1616), but his work appeared in 1642 posthumously. Sydenham gave the first satisfactory clinical description of the differential diagnosis between acute rheumatism and gout in 1676. What is known as Sydenham's chorea was described by him a few years later.