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How to Help Your Child with Systemic Juvenile Arthritis

written by: bjlbyron • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 8/23/2010

There are many ways parents of a child who has systemic juvenile arthritis can help their child prosper. This article describes this serious condition, and provides advice to parents regarding how to help a child with systemic juvenile arthritis.

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    What is systemic juvenile arthritis?

    Systemic arthritis is marked by persistent or recurring inflammation in many areas of the body, including the joints. Systemic juvenile arthritis (sometimes known as "Still's Disease") is simply systemic arthritis in a child of age 16 or under. Systemic juvenile arthritis can affect children as young as 1-2 years of age.

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    Other than inflammation, what are the symptoms of systemic juvenile arthritis?

    Children inflicted with systemic juvenile arthritis usually come down with a fever, often of 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius) or more, that persists and subsides over the course of about two weeks or so. At this time, a rash in the form of pink blotches on the torso and upper parts of the legs and arms also is common. Many of these victims then experience pain and swelling in such areas as the liver, spleen, lymph nodes, heart and lungs, for example.

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    What can parents do to help a child with systemic juvenile arthritis?

    It is important for parents to know that most arthritic children typically get better when they receive proper treatment and parents wondering how to help a child with systemic juvenile arthritis should be advised that there is much they can do. First and foremost, parents of a child who has systemic juvenile arthritis should take the child for regular visits to a doctor. The doctor can treat the child by prescribing anti-inflammatory drugs and/or cortisone, for example.

    Further, it is likely that the child's doctor will instruct the parents to have the child partake in a regular exercise program as part of a treatment course. In many such programs, swimming is particularly common, as swimming is not very stressful on the joints or the body as a whole. No matter which exercise program is prescribed, parents should make sure that their child routinely follows the program, and should offer support and encouragement to the child to help prevent the child from being discouraged, especially at times when the child is feeling his/her worst mentally and/or physically. As added incentive and support, the parents can partake in the exercise program with their child.

    Additionally, for those interested in knowing how to help a child with systemic juvenile arthritis, you can:

    • Speak to and treat your affected child as you do normally
    • Talk openly about the disorder and reassure your child that it is not his/her "fault" that he/she is ill
    • Make sure that your child receives adequate and lengthy periods of rest, especially following periods of heightened activity
    • Take extra precautions to help your child avoid physical and emotional stress
    • Plan ahead for an upcoming extraordinary event, such as a long trip, for example, as far in advance as possible so that your child is well-rested and emotionally ready for the atypical experience
    • If applicable, discuss your child's needs with school officials to ensure that they optimally care for his/her needs while your child is at school

    It is also imperative that parents of a child who suffers from systemic juvenile arthritis pay especially close attention to any changes in their child's mood, as children having this disorder are particularly prone to experiencing depression. In particular, parents should talk frequently and openly with their child about the substance of his/her thoughts. When a child is having a particularly difficult time with depression, parents likely will not be able to "talk the child out of the depression". In such instances, the parents should immediately consult with the child's physician, who can then help direct the parent to a proper medical specialist. Depression, and particularly severe and persistent depression, is a serious condition that should never be taken lightly or acted upon passively or with delay.

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    References

    International Still's Disease Foundation, Information About Still's Disease: http://www.stillsdisease.org/stills_info

    Medline Plus, National Institute of Health, Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000451.htm

    National Institutes of Health, Making the diagnosis of Still's disease: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1704215/pdf/canmedaj01448-0012.pdf