Arthritis is the inflammation of joints, an affliction that is much more common among the elderly and causes pain, rigidity, swelling and reduced mobility.
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA), or chronic arthritis, can occur in childhood and adolescence. Its symptoms and effects are joint pain and swelling and occasionally growth impairment. It is called "idiopathic" because the causes are unknown, and "juvenile" because it occurs in children under the age of 16.
It is not a contagious disease and there is no cure. Children with arthritis alternate between phases of remission (the symptoms seem to disappear) and crises (the symptoms get worse). The treatments and precautions that need to be taken depend on the specific type of juvenile arthritis.
Most of the symptoms of juvenile arthritis are due to joint inflammation. Thus patients may notice heat, swelling and reddening in the affected areas. It is often the case that these symptoms are sparked off by an over-active immune system (and it is regarded as an autoimmune disease).
It is important to get an early diagnosis so your general practitioner may refer the patient to a pediatrician specializing in rheumatology.
Precautions to take when traveling by car
When traveling by car, it is important to ensure the child's safety with a good approved child restraint system (CRS) suitable for the height and weight of the child, and always positioned in the back seat. Dr. Estela Bejerano Hoyo, a pediatrician at the Neonatology and Intensive Pediatric Care Unit of University Hospital Quirón Madrid and Quirón San José gives some very valuable tips for traveling with children with juvenile arthritis.
"Patients with juvenile arthritis must use an approved child restraint system suitable for their weight and height, just like other children of the same age. It is important to keep using these devices until the child has reached a height of at least 140 cm and ensure that once they have exceeded this height the seat belt is positioned correctly, helping children who need assistance if they have limited mobility."
Due to the potential mobility problems of these patients, it is important to plan trips very carefully:
"For journeys of more than one hour, it is important to stop regularly to get the child moving and take short walks to prevent secondary rigidity as a result of their immobility, especially during an outbreak of the disease when the inflammatory activity is much greater."
Another factor, which also applies to children without the disease, is avoiding poor posture during the journey, as this can lead to contractures, or tightening, especially “in children with deformative injuries or those who need braces to adapt child restraint systems to their particular condition."
Keeping the joints moving is very important for people with arthritis, and to get children to do this "you need to think up activities they can do inside the car, such as playing with soft toys, singing and moving their arms", provided this does not entail any risks or hamper the effectiveness of the CRS.
Finally, you should bear in mind the specific characteristics of the patient's treatment and, most importantly, consult a specialist if you have any doubts:
"If the patient has needed surgery, you must always follow the specialist's advice, who, depending on the progress of the patient, will tell you if and when they can travel by car."