Living With JIA

Physical activity for JIA Children

Physical activity is essential for good health, physically and emotionally, and even more so for children with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and other Autoimmune diseases.

It assists to:

  • Relieve stiffness, improve joint mobility and range of movement

  • Maintain/enhance muscle and bone strength

  • Improve physical function and independence

  • Helping maintain a healthy weight

  • Improving mood, sleeping and energy

  • Building confidence

Kids with arthritis need different kinds of exercise to improve their health and strength. The best activities will vary depending on the child’s age, how severe or well-controlled their arthritis is and what they like to do. Exercise should include a mix of:

  • Stretching and flexibility

  • Strengthening

  • Aerobic and conditioning

  • Balance

Education

School Life
The extent to which arthritis affects everyday life at school will vary from child to child and from day to day. Building up a good relationship with the school and child’s teacher is key. Communication between parents, teachers and the child is very important.

This is probably the first time the teacher will have come across a child with arthritis so give them as much information as possible about the condition. The first step is to arrange an initial meeting between parents and staff to talk about the diagnosis and information about how the condition affects the child daily. Then at the beginning of each new school year ask for a meeting with the child’s new teacher. Information should be passed on but don’t presume that it will.

Sleep And Rest

Children with JIA can struggle with tiredness and fatigue.  It is important therefore, that your child gets sufficient rest. This includes a good night’s sleep and possibly a rest during the day, particularly if they are young, are having a ‘flare’ of their JIA, or have previously had a poor night’s sleep.

What are sleep habits?

Good sleep habits (also called good sleep hygiene) are things that you can do to give your child the best chance of a good refreshing sleep. Most of these things are common sense but can be forgotten in everyday busy life.

Healthy Eating

Drug therapy is only one part of the management of children with arthritis. General measures include a healthy diet making sure that the amount and type of food eaten will give enough calories and protein for growth, and calcium to keep the bones as strong as possible. Children with JIA can have trouble with their appetite, so it’s important to make sure they are eating enough to maintain a healthy weight and energy levels. Carrying extra body weight puts additional stress through weight bearing joints.

A dietitian may be able to assist if your child is having issues associated with diet and nutrition. A balanced diet is important.

 

A to Z of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

  • Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS): Inflammation and stiffening of the joints of the spine. It is also known as AS.
  • Antibody: A special protein produced by the body’s immune system that recognizes and helps fight infectious agents and other foreign substances that invade the body.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Something that reduces swelling, heat and pain. It is usually a medicine
  • Anti-nuclear antibody (ANA): This test is used to do two things: it helps identify the type of arthritis your child has; and, it is an important indicator of your child’s risk of developing eye problems.

Benefits of Pet Ownership for a JIA child

The companionship that a pet can bring to a child with JIA is priceless. Unfortunately, children, teens, and young adults with chronic pain often experience loneliness because their condition can sometimes make it hard to leave the house or hang out with others. Having a furry or feathered friend can bring so much joy and energy into a home.
Even small pets, like rabbits and birds, provide excellent companionship. Having someone to sit with you can be so comforting, especially when you’re feeling unwell. A child can also read or do homework with the pet as it sits on their lap.

Transition for Teens – Pediatric into Adult Care Services

We all experience many transitions in our lives whatever our age but health transition for young people and their families means the process of addressing the medical, psychological, social, and educational-vocational needs of young people (11-24 year olds) with long term health conditions such as JIA as they move from child-oriented to adult-oriented life-styles and systems.

It is best compared with the move (or transitions) from primary to secondary school and then later from school to university or work– important positive steps for young people whilst acknowledging that secondary school/university/work are very different environments which require a wide range of knowledge and skills which should be nurtured during adolescence.

Teenagers and Arthritis

Being a teenager can be challenging enough without adding a chronic condition to the mix. Teenagers with JIA will need support and guidance to develop the skills to help them have the confidence to deal with the challenges of living with their condition while ‘setting their sails’ for adult life.

 

As a parent, this includes supporting their increasing involvement in their own care planning, goal setting and decision-making, ensuring that they understand their condition and any implications associated with the decisions they make about their arthritis, its treatment and management.

 

Practical tips for JIA

  • Encourage independence and empower your child: Involve them as much as possible in decisions about their JIA; teach them about their medication; keep them in the loop. This makes them feel a little bit more in control and encourages independence.
  • Don’t look too far ahead.  Deal with the here and now.  Make time to have fun as a family.
  • Keep things as normal as possible.  Stick to routines and maintain your child’s daily activities, such as going to school, playing with friends, and extra-curricular activities.