Looking after children with Arthritis

by Dr Vinaya kunjir

Arthritis in children is a difficult issue for the suffering children, parents and the treating physician. When a child grows, the parents have a lot of dreams for their child, for their child's comfortable life and career prospects. But when the child develops pain and arthritis the whole world changes for them. There are many questions in parents' mind: How can arthritis occur in a child because it is disease of adults? How long will my child need to take medicines? Can my child go to school again? Will my child have deformities? And so on….. During this time of confusion, the parents need good counseling. Family education helps in carrying out proper treatment and follow up of the child. Some of the things that parents must do while looking after a child with arthritis.

The children cannot express their pain or feelings like adults. They cry for every symptom of illness. The parents need to spend adequate time with their child. Once the parent and kid become good friends, the kids do not hesitate to communicate their feelings. Be your child's best friend and guide.

Notice your child's daily activities. If you notice that your child is avoiding certain activities or certain postures, take him/her to the doctor. Alertness by parents can spot early disease which can help the disease from progressing.

It is important that the physiotherapist assesses the child first. Depending on the age of the child, he will prescribe the type of exercises. If the joint is swollen, he might give a splint to rest the joint. If the muscles supporting the joint are weak, he may advise muscle strengthening or some stretching exercises. Water exercises are also a good and acceptable form of therapy for children with arthritis.

Immunization is an important issue in children with arthritis. Parents and families are encouraged to follow the regular immunization schedule for the child. Vaccines are with-held in children whose activities are very severe or who are on high dose of steroids. The treating physician / rheumatologist is the best person to guide in this matter.

Thus, looking after a child with arthritis requires team-work. The team consists of the parents, siblings, teachers, principal, the rheumatologist, physician and the physiotherapist.

Efforts should be made for not only controlling the disease and managing the current problems, but also at planning for the future .

Parents education, family and sibling support, social support, stress management education for the parents and children will help them to cope better with the disease and its disability.