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Spina Bifida - Home Treatment

How to support your child who has severe spina bifida

Exercise promotes strength, physical development, and enhanced mobility in children with spina bifida. Even children who use a wheelchair full time benefit from exercise. Exercise helps prevent brittle bones, strengthens muscles, and reduces the risk of joint injury.

Your health care team will provide you with exercises to do with your baby. To promote activity, you can also:

  • Place your child on his or her stomach and place toys within reach to encourage the use of arms.
  • Move your child's joints through their full range of motion as instructed by your doctor or physical therapist. This helps increase flexibility and prevent injury to the joints.
  • Encourage your child to take responsibility for household chores as he or she grows older.

Work on ways to strengthen your child's self-esteem. Help your child learn about and nurture his or her unique talents. For more information, see:

Growth and Development: Helping Your Child Build Self-Esteem.

Preventing skin infections and injuries requires daily inspection of your child's skin. Children with spina bifida who have little or no feeling in their legs and feet are not able to sense pain and may injure themselves without knowing it. Some injuries may result in infections. Look for cuts that your child has not noticed, blisters and pressure sores that result from staying in one position too long, raw places where braces rub on the skin, and other signs of injury. Early care of any blisters, sores, or cuts helps prevent infection.

Take care of your child's bladder control problems to help prevent bladder infections and kidney damage. Your doctor may suggest clean intermittent catheterization (CIC). You or your child will be taught to insert a catheter into his or her bladder at least 4 times a day. CIC lets urine flow out of the urethra.

Help your child prevent constipation by paying close attention to his or her diet. If your child has nerve damage that contributes to constipation, encourage him or her to drink plenty of fluids and eat foods that are high in fiber, such as whole grains and fruits. Some children need enemas, stool softeners, or laxatives to help them pass stool.

Children with spina bifida often have an allergy to latex. Help your child avoid contact with latex products, such as certain toys, balloons, and gloves. The Spina Bifida Association of America ( maintains a list of items that contain latex.

Educational needs of the child who has spina bifida

When your child reaches school age, you may need to help teachers understand your child's special needs. For example, your child may have problems with coordination that make writing difficult. Some children with severe spina bifida will have learning problems. You can work with teachers and other school officials to create a plan to take care of your child's special needs. Sometimes this is as simple as giving the child extra time to complete school work.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 21, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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