Lupus in children can be more severe than in adults, as there may be more organ involvement. However, there are treatments available that can reduce the effects of lupus symptoms.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disorder in which a person’s immune system mistakenly targets healthy tissues in the body.

Unlike some autoimmune conditions that affect only certain types of tissues, SLE can cause widespread damage to multiple organs.

SLE is the most common form of lupus. There is also cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE), which affects only a person’s skin, as well as neonatal lupus and drug-induced lupus.

SLE usually occurs in adults and adolescents but can also begin in childhood. When it occurs in children, it is known as childhood onset SLE (cSLE).

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cSLE is an inflammatory condition that affects many areas of the body.

Lupus in children is often more severe than in adults. Children also have more organ involvement, both early in the disease progression and after time has passed.

Affected body parts may include:

  • kidneys
  • brain
  • blood
  • skin
  • joints
  • heart
  • lungs

Children are also more likely to experience macrophage activation syndrome (MAS), an uncontrolled activation of certain immune system cells.

cSLE can range from intermittently or continuously chronic to acute and life threatening.

It is unusual for spontaneous remission to occur without some form of treatment.

Experts are uncertain what causes lupus. Genetics, hormones, and the environment combine to increase a person’s risk of developing lupus.

Contributing factors may include:

In some individuals, these factors lead to immune system dysregulation, which results in the production of antibodies that attack a person’s tissues.

Symptoms of lupus in children include:

Lupus symptoms sometimes occur simultaneously, and other times, they appear one at a time. They can go into remission but then flare unexpectedly.

Find pictures of lupus symptoms.

Lupus can affect multiple areas of a person’s body, so children with the condition often have more than one type of doctor on their care team.

In addition to their primary care doctor, children with lupus often consult a pediatric rheumatologist who specializes in autoimmune diseases.

Lupus in children may also require treatment from a pediatric:

Children may also see other healthcare professionals, including nurses, rehabilitation specialists, and social workers.

Pediatric dentistry may also play a role in cSLE diagnosis. A 2020 case report described a primary sign of cSLE in a 3-year-old child as an oral symptom resembling primary herpetic gingivostomatitis. This is a type of herpes involving a by high grade fever and painful oral lesions.

Treatment for lupus in children aims to minimize the disease’s effects by treating existing symptoms and preventing new ones from occurring.


Children with lupus benefit from a well-balanced diet and regular physical activity.

The corticosteroids for treating lupus can weaken bones, so adequate calcium and vitamin D intake is essential.

Children also need to wear sunscreen or sun-protective clothing.

Find a guide to healthy eating with lupus.


Children taking immunosuppressive medication for lupus treatment are at increased risk of infection, which can increase lupus flares and, in some cases, be fatal.

Non-live vaccinations provide important protection for children with lupus.

Doctors do not recommend live attenuated vaccines for people taking immunosuppressive medication. Attenuated vaccines involve a weakened form of the disease-causing agent.


Medications for lupus work by reducing inflammation and calming the overactive immune system.

There are several types that doctors prescribe:

Parents and caregivers can help their children manage lupus by taking steps to reduce the occurrence of flares.

Tips include:

  • helping the child stay on schedule with their medication
  • applying sunscreen or sun-protective clothing and limiting their sun exposure
  • consulting a pediatric rheumatologist
  • avoiding exposure to infection
  • maintaining a consistent sleep schedule to allow for adequate rest
  • taking the child to get recommended vaccines
  • providing nutritious meals
  • encouraging regular physical activity
  • avoiding secondhand smoke exposure
  • providing mental health supports
  • teaching coping strategies

A family doctor or the child’s pediatrician may have information regarding lupus support organizations for families.

There is also information available online.

The Lupus Foundation of America has a searchable directory of lupus support organizations in each state, including fundraisers, news, and support group information.

Other online support organizations include:

Lupus in children can be severe and even fatal, but it can also be mild and manageable.

Some children will need medication for life, while others have mild to moderate disease with minimal symptoms.

Read about life expectancy with lupus.

Lupus is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s healthy tissues.

Lupus in children affects multiple areas of the body and can be more severe than the disease in adults.

Many children have mild and manageable symptoms, but others need lifelong medical support.