Explaining JIA To Your Child. 

 January 11, 2023

By  Linda Rook

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis - child crying


It’s hard enough for us to understand arthritis and why we live in pain 24/7. But having this terrible disease in the early years, how can you explain this to your child?

The most paediatric rheumatologist will talk to your child with models and explain in simple terms so that they understand what is going on.

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis or JIA is unknown what causes the symptoms. The word ‘Idiopathic’ means Unknown; doctors think it combines genetics and environmental factors.

Doctors can explain this:

‘It has something to do with the genes that interact with stuff outside your body, such as a germ or virus, making you sick. It is like a science experiment; you get two different things, but mixed together something happens and goes wrong, in this case, ‘arthritis’.

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis.

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, or JIA, is a form of arthritis that develops in children. The symptoms are joint swelling (inflammation) and stiffness. Arthritis can affect one or more joints for about six weeks in a child aged sixteen or younger.

Adults with rheumatoid arthritis is a persistent disease that lasts a lifetime. With Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, the child often outgrows the condition, but it could affect bone development as the child grows.

Below is a list of different types of JIA.

Systemic onset JIA.

The first one affects more than one joint. Often has a high fever and skin rash. It could also cause inflammation of the internal organs, for example, the heart, liver, spleen and lymph nodes. Systemic JIA is the least common type and affects one in ten children.

Oligoarticular JIA.

Oligoarticular JIA affects one to four joints in the first six months of developing the disease. After six months and no more joints are affected, this is called persistent. But, if more joints are affected after six months, it’s called extended.

Oligoarticular JIA is an autoimmune disease where the healthy immune system attacks germs and incorrectly attacks the joints. The symptom of this disease is inflammation, swelling and irritation of the joints and other conditions.  The disease develops in children as young as two to three years old and is more common in girls.
Unhappy girl

Polyarticular JIA.

In the first six months, polyarticular JIA develops in five or more joints. A blood test for rheumatoid factor RF will show if the child is RF-positive or RF-negative.

Your child will have symptoms as in Oligoarticular JIA.

Enthesitis-related JIA.

Enthesitis-related JIA has two different ailments, arthritis and enthesitis. The symptoms of this could be swelling of tissue between the bone and tendon or ligaments. It often affects your child’s hips, knees, and feet.

Psoriatic arthritis. 

If your child has psoriatic arthritis, they may also have two types of causes arthritis, and red scaly skin called psoriasis. Or your child could have arthritis plus two or more of the following:

  • Inflammation on their finger or toe.
  • The fingernails are pitted or ridged.
  • Or a first-degree relative that has psoriasis.
  • Also, the child could have an increased risk of eye inflammation called asymptomatic.
  • What are the symptoms of JIA?

    The symptoms can vary from child to child, and the symptoms could occur during flare-ups (inflammation) or ongoing pain (chronic).

    The symptoms could include the following:

  • Swollen, stiff, and painful joints could be in the child’s knees, hands, ankles, feet, elbows, shoulders, or small joints; this appears typically in the morning or after a nap.
  • They could have eye inflammation.
  • The joints could be warm to the touch and red.
  • The child could be less mobile to use one or more joints.
  • They could be fatigued.
  • Their appetite is low, they have poor unexplained weight gain, and they could have slow growth.
  • In systemic JIA, your child could have a high fever, rash and Swollen lymph nodes.
  • mum reassuring child.

    Taking your child to their healthcare provider for a diagnosis would be best, as the symptoms could look like other health conditions.

    Your child may be taken for imaging tests; this will show how much damage there is to the bones. The tests may include the following:

    MRI scan
  • X-rays.
  • CT scan.
  • MRI.
  • Or bone scan.
  • x ray of fingers.

    Also, other tests could be:

    • Urine test – this looks for blood or protein.
    • Joint aspiration – a small sample of synovial fluid from the joint is taken for any bacteria or viruses.
    • Eye examination – this is done by the ophthalmologist.


    The treatment can take many forms; your child will first undergo tests. JIA can attack single or multiple joints, muscles and tendons, leaving your child in ill health, with high temperature, rash, poor appetite or weight loss.

    Treatment for JIA could include medication, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and psychological support. The goal of treating this disease is to reduce the pain and activity of the disease. In addition, it helps to keep a range of movements in the joints and muscle strength and maintain optimal function and maintenance of the independence of your child.

    When the exercise gets boring for your child.

    • Keep to different exercises.
    • Exercise your child’s favourite music.
    • To make it fun, get the family to join in.
    • Have fun activities such as swimming.
    • Get your child to do craft activities such as painting to help with the wrist extension.

    When your child is at school.

    • Ask their physio to chat with their Physical education teacher to suggest to facilitate participation.
    • Make sure that the teacher is aware of your child’s needs.
    • Arrange any exams to have extra time.
    • Ensure you have the necessary equipment or support for the practical sessions.
    • To avoid your child carrying heavy books, see if they have a locker or get a second set of books to keep at home.
    • Have a contingency plan if your child may miss school.
    • Arrange that the school has an assessment of the school’s environment.
    Children in classroom.
    child playing at home.

    At home.

    • Make sure they have a relaxing time, and also encourage a tidy room; this ensures your child has a quiet calm environment.
    • Allow your child to share any worries with you, ensuring they don’t bottle them up.
    • Ask the occupational therapist to teach your child relaxation and mindfulness skills.
    • Encourage a regular pattern of going to bed at the same time.
    • Also, agree on a specific time to turn off devices such as mobile phones, laptops etc..
    • Before your child goes to bed, warm their bed up with a hot water bottle.

    Playing with friends.

    Reassure your child to make time with their friends; this will help them through the bad times.

    Encourage your child to share the diagnosis with some close friends, and these will be important buddies for them.

    child playing with friend.

    Helping your child to manage their pain.

    To help your child with their JIA, it would be easy for them if you stick to the treatment plan. For example, getting enough sleep, getting enough exercise, and physical therapy also make it fun for them.  Also it would be best if you work with their school.

    When they are having a bad flare-up or pain you should do the following:

    Managing your child's pain.

    • Take a warm bath – this will help to relax the tense muscles.
    •   Avoid long periods in the same position -get them to move and do different things.
    • Put their clothes and pyjamas on the radiator prior to dressing and getting into bed.
    • Try distraction using favourite activities, try and keep them active.
    • Try some relaxation or mindfulness – see their occupational therapy to give you advice and help to practice this.
    • Always make sure that they take their medication.
    • Take regular rests to save their energy for an important event such as going to their friends birthday party.
    • Organise their work areas for example put their books in front of them to avoid excessive reaching & twisting.
    • Plan ahead before going out, find out where the car park /bus stop is and think about any rest points for your little one.
    • Make sure they have a good night’s sleep.
    • And make time for activity.


    When your child develops juvenile idiopathic arthritis JIA, they will live with pain and suffering. They may feel scared as they don’t know what is happening. You should help them to understand.

    Key points to JIA.

    • JIA is a type of arthritis in children up to the age of sixteen. The symptoms cause joint inflammation and stiffness for more than six weeks.
    • Arthritis could attack a few joints to many joints and cause symptoms all over their tiny body.
    • The symptoms could be swollen, stiff, warm and painful joints.
    • The treatment could include medication from their doctor, exercise with rest in between, physical therapy, eating healthy meals.

    I hope this article has helped you. Please subscribe to my website, and I will keep you updated on new blogs. Also, if you need to know anything about arthritis, please go to my contact page and leave a message, and I will get back to you.

    In the meantime, if this post is informative, I’d be very grateful if you’d help your friends or family if they have a similar condition to tell them. So please share it on Twitter or Facebook or send them an email.

    Don't forget to click on the button below for your FREE PDF so that you can keep a copy for further research.

    I am not a medical professional, and this blog is for information only. If you have any worries you should consult your doctor.

    I hope this blog has helped.

    Linda Rook

    Linda is now retired and has suffered from Osteoarthritis for about 40+ years.  She struggled with her weight until she found the correct one that also helped with her arthritic pain.  Linda was in terrible pain until the physician thought her right hip needed replacement. 

    Now Linda has an artificial right hip, which has left her with the left leg shorter than the right.  Therefore, her spine is now wonky, and has arthritis of the lower back, also it seems to be going all over the body, her pain is now in the knees, elbow, wrist, fingers and both hips.

    Linda now spends her days writing information to help others with the same conditions, so they do not suffer like Linda.

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