How to Care for Your Child with a Henoch-Schoenlein Purpura (HSP)

This leaflet will provide you with information about HSP (IgA vasculitis) causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and home care advice.

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Henoch-Schoenlein Purpura

What is HSP (IgA vasculitis)?

  • HSP (IgA vasculitis) is a kind of sickness where the blood vessels in your child’s body become swollen and sore. It most commonly occurs in children from 3 to 15 years of age. However, it can occur in all age groups.
  • It cannot be passed on to other people.
  • Usually, it goes away on its own in about 4 to 6 weeks without long-term complications.
  • Children who have had HSP (IgA vasculitis) once might get it again.

What are the causes of HSP (IgA Vasculitis)?

  • The exact cause of HSP is not well known, but it is believed to involve an abnormal immune system response, it is may be triggered by a preceding viral illness such as a sore throat, cough or cold.

What are the symptoms of HSP (IgA vasculitis)?

  • Skin rash One of the hallmark signs of HSP is a purplish rash that typically appears on the buttocks, legs, arms and face. It occurs when the small blood vessels become inflamed and swollen to form a small reddish or purple raised spot, sometimes like a small bruise (called Purpura).
  • Joints pain occur especially in the knees, ankles and elbow joint. This joint pain can range from mild to severe.
  • Abdominal pain sometimes associated with nausea, vomiting and loose stool.  
    • In rare cases, an abnormal folding of the bowel called intussusception can occur, this makes a blockage in your child intestines that may need urgent intervention.
    • Blood in the stool or urine can occur when the blood vessels in the bowel and kidneys become inflamed, leading to bleeding when your child has a bowel movement or urinates.
  • Kidney Involvement: In some cases, HSP can affect the kidneys, leading to blood or protein in the urine. This is a serious problem that needs medical attention.

How HSP (IgA vasculitis) is Diagnosed?

  • If your child experiences the above symptoms, a healthcare provider will make a diagnosis based on:
    • Symptoms: The presence of a purplish rash, joint pain, and abdominal discomfort.
    • Physical Examination: A thorough physical examination to check for specific signs associated with HSP.
    • Laboratory Tests: Blood and urine tests to assess kidney function and look for markers of inflammation.
    • Biopsy (very rarely required): In some cases, a small sample of affected tissue may be examined under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis.

How HSP (IgA Vasculitis) is treated?

  • There is no specific treatment for HSP (IgA vasculitis).Treatment for HSP focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing complications.
  • Pain Relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help manage joint pain and discomfort.
  • Rest and Fluids: adequate rest and hydration can support your child recovery.
  • Corticosteroids: Sometimes in severe cases, doctors may choose to give medicines like steroid (prednisolone) to reduce inflammation, this can help children with severe inflammation.                        
  • Follow up appointments:
    • Your doctor will advise you on the duration of follow up.
    • Your doctor may want to test urine and check your child blood pressure regularly for the first few weeks.
    • Once the rash and joint pains have settled, your doctor may want to continue to check urine samples after that to check for any kidney problems.
    • The follow up normally continue until there is no blood or protein on the urine test.

Home care advice:

  • To help manage HSP:
    • Follow Your child doctor advices: Take any prescribed medications as directed and attend follow-up appointments.
    • Keep your child well Hydrated: encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids to support your child healing process.
    • Rest: Give your child adequate rest to ensure full recovery.
    • Watch for complications: Be aware of any changes in symptoms and report them promptly to your doctor.

When should I seek medical advice?

  • If your child’s urine is red, rusty or blood colored.
  • If the joint swelling is very painful and especially if it stops your child walking.
  • If your child has severe tummy pain
  • If your child keeps vomiting
  • If there is blood in your child’s stool.
  • If your child’s testicles are swollen or painful.
  • If you feel that your child is not well.