Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
You can do a lot at home to help your child lead a normal life, relieve his or her symptoms, and prevent complications.
- Do range-of-motion exercises. These help maintain your child's joint range
and muscle strength. They also prevent
contractures. You may need to help an infant or younger child do the exercises.
- Find a balance between rest and activity. Your child may need extra naps or quiet time to rest the joints
and regain strength. But too much rest may lead to weakness in
- Partner with school staff. You can plan creative ways of dealing with JIA-caused limitations. This
can help your child make the best of his or her abilities.
- Stick to a medicine schedule. An older child may find it easier to remember to take
medicine by using a pillbox or chart for a day's or week's worth of medicine.
Ask your doctor if the dosage can be adjusted so your child can
take it at times that are most convenient and won't make him or her feel
"different." To avoid stomach upset, you can also give nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with meals or a small snack.
- Use assistive devices. These can help
your child hold on to, open, close, move, or do things more easily. Devices include Velcro fasteners and enlarged handles. Getting your child lightweight clothing and toys will also help.
- Make sure your child sees the doctor regularly. He or she should also have eye exams with an ophthalmologist. Inflammatory eye disease can develop
as a complication in children with JIA.
Dealing with stiffness
- Apply heat to stiff and painful joints
for 20 minutes, repeating as needed. You can use hot water bottles or heating
pads on a low-to-medium setting. Or make hot packs from towels dipped in warm
water or wet towels microwaved for 15 to 30 seconds. Don't leave a small child
unattended with a heating pad. Always make sure that heating pads, hot water
bottles, and hot packs aren't too hot for your child's skin. Do not use heat if your child's joint are red and warm.
- Many children who have
JIA have less stiffness in the morning if their joints are kept warm during the
night. To help keep joints warm, try footed pajamas, thermal underwear, a sleeping bag, a heated water
bed, or an electric blanket.
- Encourage your
child to take a warm bath or shower first thing in the morning. It can help ease
stiffness. Have your child stretch gently afterward.
- Give morning
medicines as early as possible, with a snack or breakfast, to prevent upsetting
an empty stomach.
Help yourself to help your child
JIA often means making lifestyle
changes and adjustments. This can be frustrating and demanding for you, your
child, and your family. Here are a few steps to help yourself:
- Learn about the disease. Knowing more about it will help you and your child have less
fear, make better decisions, and have better results.
- Work as a team with
your child's doctors and other health professionals. The outlook is better when you and your child actively manage your child's health.
- Take good physical care of yourself so that you can help your child
through the more difficult periods of illness. Consider becoming involved with
a support group of families who live with JIA. Your
local chapter of the Arthritis Foundation can provide classes and support-group
- Remember that many children with JIA don't have long-term
disease and disability. They go on to lead healthy adult lives.
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
June 5, 2012
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