TAYLOR is an active eight-year-old.
She plays soccer and loves to swim. But over the past two weeks she has been complaining that her elbow is sore. Her mother can see that it is red and swollen and thinks a soccer ball probably hit her. So she puts ice on it and tells Taylor to relax. She also has her to take a break from her activities until it gets better.
Ryan is 14 years old and has been complaining when he gets up in the morning.
He says he feels stiff and sore. This has been going on for more than two weeks. His mother figures it's simply because he doesn't want to get out of bed.
In each of these cases the parents are not likely to consider that these kids might be suffering from juvenile arthritis. Heavens, their parents figure they are too young for arthritis. It is, after all, known as a disease of the elderly.
And yet, childhood arthritis is nearly as common or more common than other well-known chronic childhood illnesses such as childhood leukemia, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and cystic fibrosis.
Because we simply don't consider that a child may be suffering from juvenile arthritis we tend to wait too long before seeing a specialist and getting the child the care that will reduce their pain.
What do you look for? If, over the period of a few weeks, your child has inflamed joints (red, swollen, and warm to the touch), stiffness in the morning or after waking from nap, is limping or has difficulty using an arm or leg, contact your family doctor.
Your doctor can refer you to a pediatric rheumatologist.
If your child has arthritis, the Arthritis Society of Canada recommends early treatment and the best care is through a pediatric rheumatology team. They will recommend a treatment plan.
As well, healthy physical activity is important to keep muscles and bones strong.
But it's equally important to consult with your pediatric team for activities that best suit your child.
With proper treatment, most children will enter adulthood without major physical disability. Contemporary treatment for juvenile arthritis ranges from oral medications to injectable medications, and requires regular medical followup, physiotherapy and laboratory testing. Children do not grow out of their arthritis; approximately 60 per cent of children will continue to have arthritis or live with its aftereffects into adulthood.
Research funded by The Arthritis Society has helped children with juvenile arthritis lead more active, fulfilling lives and highlights the impact of donor dollars. Further investments in research will broaden our understanding of the disease, improve treatments and, ultimately, find a cure.
One of the most interesting initiatives for Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month is going to be the use of social media. The Society will be conducting interactive social media events via Facebook every week during March. The events, which will involve the participation of leading pediatric rheumatologists and individuals with JA and their parents, will encourage online conversations about juvenile arthritis. In B.C. the Facebook event will take place on Tuesday, March 6, 7: 308: 30 p.m. Dr. Lori Tucker will be the guest host. You can find this at www.facebook. com/ArthritisSociety.
I would really recommend that you do involve your child in this forum. They are likely to be quite responsive to gaining information online.
The Arthritis Society will also be holding a youth video contest during March. The objective of the contest is to put a "face" on juvenile arthritis by engaging youth with arthritis to share their stories. For details and contest rules, please visit www. childrensarthritis.ca.
The most important thing is to have your child diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Kids have different needs than adults so are best cared for by a multidisciplinary team at a pediatric rheumatology centre.
With proper care, the quality of your child's life will improve.
Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert who is a professional speaker and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. If you want to read more, sign up for her newsletter at www.parentingtoday.ca.
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