We all really want the best for our kids.
When they are not happy, neither are we.
If your child has recently been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis or has been struggling with this autoimmune disease for years, remember one thing.
You are not alone
Nearly 300,000 children in the U.S alone suffer with some form of juvenile arthritis. Unfortunately, JA is only one of many autoimmune diseases affecting kids.
Children nowadays suffer from multiple scleroses, Type 1 diabetes and thyroid disorders, just like adults.
What is juvenile arthritis
When an autoimmune disease develops, instead of protecting the body against things like the flu virus, the immune system turns on itself and attacks its own cells by mistake.
In children with JA, this can result in painful inflammation, among other symptoms.
Studies dating back to 2007 estimate that 1 in 250 children had been diagnosed with arthritis or other rheumatologic conditions.
Both sexes are vulnerable to developing Systemic Arthritis (Still’s disease) and Psoriatic Arthritis.
One the other hand, girls are more prone to develop Polyarthritis and Oligoarthritis while mainly boys are affected by Enthesitis.
Please read Juvenile Arthritis Explained for more information on JA.
Family studies suggest an increased risk for certain genetics, but Western medicine has been unable to properly diagnose and treat autoimmune disorders.
This condition is not just physical either.
Psychologically it takes its toll too.
Many children may become depressed while lacking confidence if they’re physical and emotional needs are not attended to.
What can you do?
Acceptance is the first step.
By coming to terms with the disease, half the battle is already won.
Ensure to keep the lines of communication open with your child so that both of you can deal with the situation honestly and openly.
Reach out to your child, make them feel comfortable with themselves and the disease they need to manage.
As a parent, you need to be sure to do research. This could help your child cope with the challenges of their condition.
The more you familiarize yourself with the condition, the easier it will become.
Educate your child’s teacher about his/her condition and remember to have reasonable expectations of your child.
Juvenile arthritis can affect your child in many ways, some of which you may not yet know.
The importance of exercise cannot be underestimated.
Because children affected by juvenile arthritis have less muscle strength and muscle endurance than others, staying active is a vital part of your child’s treatment plan.
Physical activity will not only help to keep your child’s weight down, but it may also serve to boost your child’s confidence levels.
It helps to increase mobility, joint flexibility, strength and general well-being.
Exercise also allows for the opportunity to socialize and make friends.
Try something like swimming to keep pressure of the joints.
Keep in mind that you need to treat your child as normally as possible.
You need to know their limitations.
It may sound harsh, but even when your child is in pain, they should still go to school.
This is vital.
When your child is at home, chances are that the pain can feel so much worse if they are left without distractions.
When your child is at school, there are others things to focus on, like friends, recess and of course homework.
Make sure that your child sticks to routine.
This will prepare them emotionally and make the painful days that much easier to deal with.
It is very important to make sure your child gets a sufficient amount of sleep.
- Uninterrupted sleep
- Age-appropriate naps
- A sleep schedule (routine)
Your child will be in a better mood generally if they get sufficient sleep.
A nice nap can also help take their mind off of the pain, even if it is only for a short while.
Enough sleep also ensures that he or she will have correct mind and body development.
There is a definite link between arthritis and food.
Feed your body well and you will reap the benefits.
While a healthy diet is important for all children, it is even more vital for children diagnosed with JA.
Anywhere between 20% – 30% of patients try alternative therapies, most commonly nutritional therapy.
The underlying issue is that JA sufferers can become susceptible to other issues if the proper nutrition needs are not met.
This can also be somewhat harder than imagined.
Many kids with juvenile arthritis tend to have suppressed appetites, either due to the disease itself or the medication they may be taking.
Kids with jaw pain or joint disorders may even have difficulty chewing or swallowing certain foods.
Speak to a nutritionist or dietician, for a customized diet plan for your child.
Numerous dietary approaches claim to relieve or prevent arthritic symptoms.
- Fasting (consuming juice or water only)
- Vegan based diets
- Diets altogether free of animal-derived products
- Elimination diets (diets which restrict certain foods believed to trigger symptoms)
So what can kids eat?
- Walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios and almonds
- Colorful fruits and veggies like blueberries, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, spinach, kale, broccoli, eggplant and bell peppers
- 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil daily
- Red beans, small red kidney beans, pinto beans black beans, garbanzo beans and black-eyed peas
- Salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, anchovies, scallops and other cold-water fish
- All foods high in added sugar
- All foods high in trans fatty acid
- Whole milk
- Fatty red meat
- Dark-meat poultry
- Tropical oils
- Canned soups
- All fast food
- Frozen entrees
- Processed snack food
- Lunch meats
- Cured Ham
Many of these contain nitrates.
Nitrates are a normal part of the diet, but excessive levels can cause problems.
There also seems to be some evidence to suggest that some individuals report relief of symptoms when avoiding nightshade vegetables.
Nightshade vegetables include eggplant, tomatoes, red bell peppers and potatoes, all associated with Mediterranean cuisine.
If you would like more information on juvenile arthritis, please read Is Your Child In Pain Due To JA.