The school year is an opportunity to enjoy some of the best memories with friends. But for many kids with juvenile arthritis (JA) and other rheumatic conditions, being in school can sometimes bring feelings of isolation. Many kids with JA have never met a friend with the same diagnosis. They never get to take a break from a serious illness that’s often quite painful, makes the immune system go haywire and can be downright lonely at times.
Summer break, however, is another story! The Arthritis Foundation provides camp programs and our National Juvenile Arthritis Conference in two locations, giving kids with JA the experience of a lifetime and the chance to feel included. Meeting other kids with the same disease fosters courage and strength and teaches them how to advocate for themselves.
That’s why July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month — a time when we put a spotlight on JA, so more people know what living with it is like. We also take the opportunity to encourage parents who suspect their child may have arthritis to consult a pediatric rheumatologist as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment are the best bet for avoiding permanent joint damage and improving the chance of remission.
JA affects 300,000 families
An estimated 300,000 families in the U.S. face the major disruptions JA can cause, making the disease worth acknowledging and doing something about. More children battle JA than do those who have cystic fibrosis, juvenile diabetes and leukemia combined.
Juvenile arthritis and related diseases in kids have some things in common with adult arthritis, but they’re not the same. Typically, there’s joint pain, swelling, redness and warmth. Otherwise, the many types of JA affect different kids in different ways. They can involve the eyes, skin, heart, lungs and gastrointestinal tract.
JA can make it hard to do schoolwork or take part in social and afterschool activities. Many kids with JA feel misunderstood and isolated. Some are bullied. Read one teen’s short memoir about living with arthritis.
What can you do to make a difference?
Your support provides the resources families need to live their best life.
- We host JA camps nationwide to bring kids together who understand each other and no longer have to feel alone.
- Our National JA Conference, being held this year in Houston, July 18-21, and in Minneapolis, Aug. 1-4, will empower hundreds of families to take control of JA.
- JA Power Packs help newly diagnosed children and their families get adjusted and connect with others for tips and support.
- Watch our short video about Conquering Childhood Arthritis, which is among the Arthritis Foundation’s highest priorities. You’ll see what we’re aiming to accomplish through research.
- Join our Live Yes! Online Community, where there’s a special thread for JA families to exchange challenges and tips, plus you can ask health experts your questions.
- Our Live Yes! Connect Groups for JA Parents bring moms and dads together in person to share their troubles and triumphs, with more local groups forming all the time.
- Consider signing for the PARTNERS registry, which needs people from diverse communities to participate in surveys, provide ideas and contribute to projects.
- Clinical trials to advance JA research may be just a short drive away, so check for nearby studies and consider getting involved.
- Watch this research video to learn how clinical trials work and the variety of roles you can play in JA research.
Ways to help raise awareness
Helping get the word out about juvenile arthritis and other pediatric rheumatic conditions will generate more support for research and resources.
- Take to social media using the hashtag #StrongerThanJA. Tell everyone you know that you’re fighting JA and urge them to join you.
- It’s a snap to add your snapshot to our photo pool — and automatically unlock a $5 donation from cheerity.com.
- Share your story about the ups and downs of living with JA, which will inspire others to get behind our cause.
- Dedicate a special JA Awareness Month donation in honor of yourself or a JA Warrior you love and care about.