Currently, the cause of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is not well understood, and there is no way to prevent it. The self-care methods listed below may help prevent complications and make managing the illness easier.
Preventing joint pain and swelling
Children with JRA need a careful balance of activity and rest. Encourage your child not to overdo activity when he or she is feeling well. Too much activity will generally make soreness worse. Limit your child's participation in activities that are stressful to joints (such as running or contact sports) during flares of arthritis. But try not to discourage activity so that the child begins to feel very different from his or her playmates or friends.
Be sure that your child takes his or her medicine as prescribed. Use joint supports or splints if your doctor recommends them. Apply heat to stiff and painful joints for 20 minutes, repeating as needed. You can use hot water bottles, heating pads on a low-to-medium setting, or hot packs, either towels dipped in warm water or wet towels microwaved for 15 to 30 seconds. Do not leave a small child unattended with a heating pad. Always make sure heating pads, hot water bottles, and hot packs are not too hot for your child's skin.
Preventing morning stiffness
Many children with JRA have less stiffness in the morning if their joints are kept warm during the night. Footed pajamas or thermal underwear, or a sleeping bag, heated water bed, or electric blanket may help keep joints warm.
Encourage your child to take a warm bath or shower first thing in the morning to help ease stiffness and then to stretch gently afterward.
Give morning medicines as early as possible, with a snack or breakfast to prevent upsetting an empty stomach.