After every winter, I need to “defrost.” Since I was small, I would bask in the warmth of the sun on the first few days of summer. Every day, I would lie in the grass and feel the chill leave my body. It was my way of saying goodbye to long, painful winters.
Cold weather was always an issue for me as a child with juvenile arthritis. While cool pack therapy can be helpful for JA, cold weather can cause the body to tense, making the joints stiff and painful. Plus, feeling fatigued or sick from medicines can make it easy to catch a chill that won’t leave.
There are so many ways to fight the cold that I learned over the years. While it’s tempting to hibernate under a pile of blankets all winter, resting too much without exercise can cause more pain. Finding a combination of ways to warm up for rest, school, and exercise will help your child feel better.
Helping cold hands
Schools are notoriously cold. It can make writing and drawing even harder for kids with JA. For that reason, many kids with JA like to wear fingerless gloves. Some prefer the type with compression (it’s helpful for the swelling associated with juvenile psoriatic arthritis), while others like soft, loose styles. It’s up to your child and their style! I personally like the ones with hoods that turned into mittens.
If your child also suffers from a lot of hand pain, a paraffin wax bath can be soothing. The moist heat can be extremely soothing to the joints and help warm and reduce pain. While it is a little bit of an investment, baths can be found relatively affordable, and paraffin can be reused. And you can’t put a price on effective pain relief.
Likely, you’ve put your child in the bath to help soothe their joints and warm them up at some point. But this isn’t always possible for kids with psoriatic arthritis due to psoriasis flares. In that case, running a hot shower and enjoying the steam and warmth from outside the tub can also be helpful.
And while I advise extreme caution while using them, heated blankets, hot water bottles, and heating pads can help a lot. Though snuggling under a blanket is warm, the added heat helps a lot. For younger children, cuddling with a parent for body heat or using a blanket fresh from the dryer is a safer alternative.
It can be a challenge to stay active over the winter. Playing outside is fun, but might leave your child stiff and sore. For that reason, indoor activities are preferable. Dance, yoga, and karate are excellent winter options! So is swimming in a heated indoor pool.
With their doctor’s permission, your teen might like to check out heated yoga. The warmed room is really comforting and is great for gentle stretching. Even if they can’t handle a full class, spending a half hour doing modified poses slowly can be a great experience.
Winter can be a hard time for kids. They may feel trapped in their own bodies because they’re extra stiff and don’t want to move. Please, be patient with your child. It can be hard to motivate yourself to get out of bed when you know the cold floor will make painful feet even worse. It’s difficult to find things that work, but I promise they will appreciate any relief you can give them.
Note: Juvenile Arthritis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Juvenile Arthritis News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to juvenile arthritis.