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MS (Multiple Sclerosis) in Children

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Treating MS Attacks in Children

Corticosteroid medications are used to reduce inflammation in the brain and spinal cord during attacks of MS. The main corticosteroid used for MS attacks is Solu-medrol (methylprednisolone), which is given by IV once a day for three to five days. Sometimes, doctors prescribe an oral corticosteroid called prednisone for a short time following the IV medication.

Although most children tolerate corticosteroids well, for some they cause side effects, including moodiness and behavior changes, increases in blood pressure and blood sugar, and stomach irritation. Doctors can treat these problems if necessary.

If corticosteroids alone don’t bring enough improvement, other treatments, including intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) and plasma exchange, are available to treat MS attacks.

Preventing Attacks of MS

Although corticosteroids can ease MS attacks, they do not prevent them. Doctors prescribe other types of drugs for that purpose. While decreasing the number of attacks, these drugs may also slow the disease’s progression to disability.

Medications for MS are not approved by the FDA for treatment in patients younger than age 18. However, doctors use immunomodulating drugs to treat children with MS, although dosing is modified.

Medications used for pediatric MS include:

Extensive studies have found these drugs to be effective and safe in adults with MS. Similar results have been seen in small studies of children with MS.

These medications are given by injection -- either into the muscle or beneath the skin. Your child’s doctor or nurse can work with you to make the injections less troublesome. Teenagers may be able to give themselves the injections.

In addition, treatments may be recommended for specific symptoms related to MS, such as muscle spasm, fatigue, and depression.

As with all medications, these can cause side effects. The most common side effects with interferons are flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, muscle aches, and headaches, which start shortly after the injections. Your child’s doctor can minimize these and other side effects by starting the medication at a low dose, increasing it gradually, and giving other medications to relieve the side effects.

The most common side effect of Copaxone is redness and swelling at the injection site. If this occurs, techniques such as applying cold packs can help ease swelling.

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