Nearly 300,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with various types of arthritis, which are grouped together under the name “juvenile idiopathic arthritis.”
These types of arthritis can appear any time before the age of 16 and, like rheumatoid arthritis in adults, are thought to be caused by autoimmune reactions in the body.
This means that the child’s immune system is mistakenly attacking healthy cells. We do not entirely understand why. It does seem to happen more in some families. Infections, stress or other illnesses may also play a role.
You may be surprised to learn that some symptoms of juvenile arthritis are similar to those that a child might also have with a cold or flu, though they will often be prolonged or recurrent. Consider these five:
Usually worse right after waking in the morning or from a nap and improves with activity. It is most common for pain to be in the knees, hands, feet, neck and jaw. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may not help lessen the pain.
Stiff joints are also more noticeable after waking. A child may show limpness in a limb or hold a limb in one position. In very young children, normal activities, especially ones recently learned, may suddenly become difficult.
Frequent fevers without any symptoms of respiratory or gastrointestinal infection. Fevers frequently come and go quite suddenly. Sometimes fevers are seen at the same time every day.
Painful joints may swell and become red, sometimes feeling warm to the touch. A joint or several joints commonly feel hot. Swelling from juvenile arthritis will seem to come out of nowhere, unlike swelling from a fall or injury.
Faint, pink rash on the knuckles, cheeks, bridge of the nose, trunk, arms or legs can last for days or weeks. Such rashes might not ooze or be itchy.
It is often not possible to distinguish between a common childhood ailment, such as a cold or flu, and juvenile arthritis. Most children with these symptoms will not have juvenile arthritis; however, symptoms persisting for weeks, recurring symptoms and multiple symptoms are all reasons to seek evaluation from your child’s health care provider.
Source: Dr. Alisa Hideq/ Riverfront Medical Center, Spokane