Tips for Juvenile Arthritis

Tips for Juvenile ArthritisChildren living with arthritis experience many of the same challenges as adults living with this disease. In addition to fluctuating episodes of pain and limited ability to carry out the activities of daily living, a child needs and wants to feel normal, to develop independence, to exercise regularly, to maintain nutritional requirements, and to develop and maintain family and social relationships.

In what follows are tips to help your children when they have arthritis:

  • Promote Normalcy

Adjust your expectations of the child only when a flare-up of arthritis occurs or joint damage prevents specific activities.

Make your expectations of the child clear. Picking up his toys, completing his homework, helping with the dishes, putting his soiled clothes in the hamper and being responsible for chores, just like other children his age, all increase the sense of normalcy.

  • Promote Independence

Do not overprotect your child living with arthritis by ‘doing for,’ rather than ‘with.’

Promoting independence involves allowing your child to try to do something first. Neither the caregiver nor the child knows what can be accomplished if not given the opportunity to try.

Only offer assistance when needed or requested by your child. This helps your child develop an attitude of ‘I can’ rather than adopting the more dependent ‘sick role.’

  • Encourage Regular Exercise

Encourage exercise to help prevent increasing stiffness in joints, as well as to build muscle, improve stamina, and increase bone health. Some tips that may help encourage participation are:

  • Play music and dance with the child – use gentle swaying rhythmic movements – no bouncing up and down on affected joints
  • Exercise affected joints in the tub
  • Exercise affected joints after a warm bath or shower
  • Do yoga with the child, or invite friends and do it as a group for fun
  • Ensure Healthy Nutrition

One of the side effects of steroids, which are medications commonly prescribed for arthritis, is an increase in appetite that then leads to weight gain. Some tips that may help prevent weight gain are:

  • Guide your child toward more healthy snacks and choices
  • Prepare healthy snacks in advance so that they are readily available to prevent grabbing a bag of chips or something similarly unhealthy
  • Ask your child for input when grocery shopping to identify healthy foods that he thinks that he would like to try

Anti-inflammatory medications, again often prescribed for arthritis, may cause a bitter or metal taste in the mouth which affects the desire to eat. Some tips that may help are:

  • Brushing teeth more often
  • Eating or drinking something with a strong taste like orange juice after taking medication
  • Older children can rinse with mild salt water solution to help get rid of the metal taste