You’d think that the last thing a parent ever expects to learn is that their child has arthritis. But in reality, many people are more shocked to learn that some JA medicines don’t come in pill form — some are injected under the skin with a small needle. You may have seen a few advertised on TV, such as Enbrel (etanercept) and Humira (adalimumab).
These types of medications, called biologics, have been extremely helpful in the fight against JA. While I didn’t respond well to most disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, the biologics I’ve tried have done wonders for my joints. I achieved remission for a year and a half in high school thanks to Enbrel, and it was awesome going to prom, applying for college, and truly living life without the pain. While I’m sad I’m not in remission anymore, the medicines have still done a great job controlling my JA.
But I admit, it wasn’t easy getting used to — after all, no one likes getting shots. Your child’s pediatric rheumatologist or primary care physician may let them come into the office to be given injections. But many people, myself included, find it more convenient to do it at home. If you go that route, there are several things you can do to help reduce the pain.
Even a child who is used to being stuck might be anxious about receiving their medicine. Trying to do the injection during the chaos of the morning routine before school might increase tension because they feel rushed, making it more anxiety-inducing and painful.
Try to choose a quiet time for your child’s injection, when you can take as long as you need with them. It might be right after a bath but before bed, when your child feels tired and relaxed. Or it might be an hour after a dose of their pain medication while resting after school. The more comfortable, relaxed, and quiet the atmosphere, the better.
Numb it up!
Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to use needles at all? That would be so much less painful! But until that day comes, numbing the skin around the injection site before sterilizing it works wonders for reducing the pain. I always used an ice cube wrapped in a dishcloth, which did the trick for me.
Some hospitals and clinics use Buzzy, a vibrating ice pack. The mixture of cold and vibrations distract the nerves, so you barely notice pokes. Buzzy may be an excellent investment for your family.
Some biologics can burn a bit while being injected. The formula for Humira used to burn before it was updated last year, and I used to dread my injection. In that case, you can ask the doctor to prescribe numbing sprays or topicals, which can be more effective than just a cold pack because they last longer.
Sometimes, the anticipation is worse than the shot itself. Distraction therapy is a great way to alleviate some of the worries and reduce tension. Singing is an excellent way for both little and older kids to distract themselves while keeping still, especially if they’re singing along to a favorite show or music video. Not only is it fun, but taking deep breaths to sing can help calm your child.
If your child isn’t much for singing and dancing, there are other ways to distract them. Watching a favorite TV show, blowing bubbles, playing I Spy, or even having a conversation are great ways to keep your mind off the needle.
When I first started taking Humira, I would wake up the next morning with a killer headache. After speaking with a nurse, I found out many get dehydrated after taking their dose. Mystery solved! I started keeping some Gatorade in the house for injection night.
If your child is also experiencing headaches, it might be because they’re dehydrated (but you should also check with their rheumatologist). After the injection, it might help to offer your child their favorite electrolyte drink or popsicles.
Find what works for your family
While I hope my four tips can help your family, I know every situation is a little different. Maybe each of these will be helpful. Perhaps none of them will apply. Every child and their family will differently address their medical care.
Some families will be comfortable with giving injections at home, and may even have their preteens and teens trained to provide themselves with their medicine. Other families may prefer to continue to go into the office and have a nurse administer the injection. All are OK!
It isn’t easy to cope with, especially with young children. What’s important is making sure that your child is safe and receiving the care they need.
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.
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