Taking juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) medications

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Find out about the different ways that arthritis medications can be taken. Some are taken orally as a liquid or tablet. Others are injected either under the skin (subcutaneously), into a vein (intravenously), or directly into a swollen joint.

Key points

  • JIA medications may be given by mouth or by an injection.
  • IV injections and joint injections have to be given by a doctor.
  • It is important for a child to always take their medication, even if they feel well.

JIA medications come in many different forms including oral liquids or tablets, or injections. It's important to remember to give your child JIA medications when they are supposed to receive them.

Different ways to take JIA medications

There are many ways to take JIA medication. Many medications are taken orally, meaning by mouth. Oral medicines are available in liquid or tablet form. If your child is not comfortable swallowing pills, ask their doctor if they are available in a liquid form. If not, the doctor or nurse may have tips on how to make swallowing the pills easier.

Some medications have to be given by injection:

  • Some of these medications are given subcutaneously, meaning that they are injected just under the skin. This is much like the insulin shots that people with diabetes take.
  • Others are given intravenously (IV), which means they are given through a tiny tube inserted in the vein. The other end of the tube is attached to a bag containing the medication. The medication drips directly into the bloodstream.
  • Some medications can be injected directly into the joint. This is called a joint injection or intra-articular injection.

Giving your child an injection

IV injections and joint injections have to be given by a doctor. However, some injections given under the skin may be done at home. In this case, you as a parent or caregiver will need to learn how to give the injections to your child. If your child is mature enough, they may want to learn how to do this for themselves.

Most people don't like having needles, let alone giving themselves injections. However, many young people find it saves time if they do it themselves. If you, your child or teen are learning to give injections, here are some tips:

Step 1: You need to know how a syringe works. The different parts of a syringe are shown in the picture below.

Syringes Needle, barrel and plunger of a syringe
How to inject medication

Step 2: You need to know how to prepare the medication and how to inject it. Check out this animation on how to give an injection.

Step 3: You need to know the areas, or sites, on the body where the injections can be given. The doctor or nurse will tell you about the best sites to use for the injection. You may find it helpful to use different injection sites so that you don't irritate your child's skin by using the same site for every injection. Check out the image below to see where you can inject the medication.

Injection sites for arthritis medication Identification of injection sites of methotrexate and etanercept on a girl’s body
Methotrexate can be injected into the upper arms or outer thighs. Etanercept (Enbrel) can be injected into the upper arms, outer thighs, or in the abdomen. Space injection points two fingers apart.

Remembering to take JIA medications

Many young people with JIA find it hard to remember to take their medications.

Here are a few useful tips to help parents and teens remember to give or to take medications:

  • Use a pill box.
  • Have the medications available when needed. For example, your child may need to keep a supply at school.
  • Place medications in a prominent place associated with a regular daily activity. One idea is to keep medication in the kitchen so your child can take it with meals.
  • Make sure your child's doctor tells you what to do if your child does miss a medication dose.
  • Remind your child about the importance of taking their medication, even if they feel well.

No one likes taking medications. If there are barriers preventing your child from taking their medications, discuss them with the health-care team. They can help you and your child find ways to overcome them.

Last updated: January 31st 2017