Children's

Cold & Flu Season

 

It’s that time of year when the flu virus spreads. Every year from October to May, millions of people across the United States come down with the flu. So how can you protect your family, and what should you do if your child gets sick?

Delphene Noland is the manager of Infection Prevention and Control at Children’s of Alabama. She recommends now is a good time to get the flu shot. “It can start as early as September through April. It’s good for the entire season. We know the flu is most prevalent through the fall and winter,” Noland said. The flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older.

Influenza, or “the flu,” is a very contagious viral infection of the respiratory tract. The flu can often have some of the same symptoms as the common cold but more severe.

Identifying the Flu
Flu feels worse than a cold
Higher fever
Body aches
May have diarrhea or vomiting

Treating the Flu
Get plenty of sleep and stay home
Drink lots of liquids to prevent dehydration
Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve fever and aches

Noland says it is extremely important to stay hydrated during the flu. “Most flu deaths are related to complications of the flu, not necessarily the flu itself. For instance, things like dehydration and pneumonia,” she said. “If they’re not eating and drinking, if babies are not having wet diapers, those are hallmarks that you may need to seek medical attention.”

The flu is easily spread, but there are ways to prevent it. “Hand washing is the number one thing you can do to prevent any viruses including the flu,” Noland said. She encourages parents to teach their children to wash their hands often, including throughout the day when they are at school. “There’s no such thing as too much hand washing,” she said.

Because the flu is so contagious, it’s important to keep your child home when they are sick until they are fever free for at least 24 hours. The flu usually lasts about a week.
It’s important to get the vaccine every year to have the best protection against the flu.

Children's, Health and Safety

Holiday Hazards

The holidays are one of the most wonderful times of the year. Keep you and your family safe this season by reading the tips below on how to avoid potential holiday hazards!

Fire Hazards

The National Child Protection Association and the U.S. Fire Administration estimates that there are 240 house fires from Christmas trees alone and 150 fires from holiday lights each year. When deciding on a Christmas tree this year, make sure it is fresh and watered appropriately. The tree needles should be green, and the stump sticky with sap and they should be placed away from any heat sources that may cause it to catch fire. You should water the tree daily, and if you notice the tree beginning to dry out and die, you should remove the tree from your home. All artificial trees should be flame resistant.

Poisoning Risks

Many holiday plants can be poisonous if ingested. This includes mistletoe, holly, and Jerusalem cherry plants. Symptoms of potential plant poisoning are rashes, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you suspect that your child has eaten any part of the plant, please contact the Regional Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. Bubble lights and snow sprays can also be poisonous to children. Bubble lights contain a hazardous chemical called methylene chloride and should not be ingested.

Medication Risks

With your holiday parties, make sure guests and relatives coming into your home keep their medications out of reach for your children. Store all medicines — prescription and nonprescription — out of sight and out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet. Even items that seem harmless, such as mouthwash, can be hazardous if ingested in large quantities by children. All packages and bottles should be child resistant. If you are visiting someone else’s home, make sure your kids are in a safe area of the house that is properly childproofed.

Alcohol and Food Poisoning

The risk of alcohol and food poisoning is all too common amongst children during the holidays. To lower the risk, make sure you dispose of all empty or partially empty containers immediately. All alcohol should be kept away and out of reach of children. Practice food safety by thoroughly washing hands, utensils, dishes, and anything else that comes in contact with raw meat, including poultry and fish, raw eggs before and after use. Store your leftovers properly, and heat them thoroughly before serving again.

Choking and Swallowing

Tree ornaments, light bulbs, icicles, tinsel, and small toys are all potential choking hazards for small children. If it is small enough to fit in a baby or toddler’s mouth, then it is too small to play with. Button batteries are common in most children’s toys and are very dangerous if swallowed. The symptoms of button battery ingestion are coughing, choking, irritability, loss of appetite, and fever. If swallowed, visit your nearest emergency department or call 911. Small treats such as peanuts or popcorn, tree needles, angel hair (made from finely spun glass) and ornament hangers are all potentially harmful and should be kept away from children.

Gift Giving

The number one thing to remember when picking gifts for your little ones this season is that you must choose a gift that is age appropriate. For young children, toys without strings, batteries and removable parts are best and reduce the risk of choking.

If your child ingests something toxic this holiday season, call the Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama at 1-800-222-1222.  The Regional Poison Control Center can give recommendations for how to treat ingestion as well as dermal and ocular exposures.

 

Children's, Health and Safety

Tips for New Parents

Bringing your new baby home is one of the most exciting moments in a new parent’s life, but there are a few tips you must keep in mind to ensure their safety.

Placement of the crib

  • Should be a safe distance away from any window or furniture.
  • Should be away from all cords (blinds, electrical cords)

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

  • Have a working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
  • If an alarm goes off, grab your baby and exit the house right away.
  • Call 911 and do not re-enter the house until the fire department says it is safe.
  • If your baby becomes drowsy or abnormally fussy, seek medical attention right away.

Car Seat Installation

  • Choose a car seat that is the right size for your child
  • Read your car seat’s manual and car manual to ensure it is installed correctly
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infant car seats should be rear facing until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer.

Items in your baby’s crib

  • Crib should contain a firm mattress and fitted sheet only
  • Do not place blankets or stuffed animals in the crib
  • Infants should be placed on their back for naps and bedtime

Water heater temperature

  • Set your water heater no higher than 120 degrees to avoid the risk of burns.
  • Test water temperature by placing your elbow into the bath water.

 

 

For more information and resources, please visit https://www.safekids.org/

Children's, Health and Safety

Fire Prevention Week

Every year, most deaths due to a fire occur in the home.  Your family should have a fire escape plan in case of an emergency, and know what to do if you or your child are burned.

Fire prevention

The first step in fire safety is prevention. Look for possible fire hazards in your home, such as:

  • Light bulbs with the incorrect wattage
  • Overused extension cords
  • Overloading an outlet
  • Electrical appliances being in poor condition with frayed cables or wires
  • Portable heaters
  • Cigarettes, matches and candles
  • Grease spills
  • Appliances accidently left plugged in

 

Smoke Alarms and Fire Extinguishers

Having a smoke detector cuts the risk for fatalities in half by alerting residents when there is smoke present. Every bedroom and level of your home should have a smoke detector on the ceiling or high on the wall. Check the batteries often to make sure they are working.

Fire extinguishers can help you put out a fire before it gets too big to handle. There should be a fire extinguisher on each floor and in the kitchen. They work best when the flame is small and in a contained area. The National Fire Protection Association says to remember the word PASS when using an extinguisher:

  • Pull the pin. Release the lock with the nozzle pointing away from you.
  • Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
  • Sweep the nozzle from side to side.

Creating a safety plan

Your family should have a safety plan to ensure that you are exiting your home quickly, while still being safe. Make sure every family member is aware of exits, doors and windows, and that they can be opened easily. Make sure your children can open them on their own in the event you cannot help them. You should practice fire drills with your family; know how to get out of the house and where to meet outside. Your meeting place should be a safe distance away from the house, such as the mailbox. Once you are out safely, you must not go back inside for any reason.

First Aid

If a family member gets burned:

  • Remove the heat source and any clothing from the burned area.
  • A first-degree burn will leave skin pink or red, with no blisters or raw areas.
  • A second degree burn will have blisters and clear drainage.
  • A third-degree burn can look charred or leathery.
  • Run cool water over the area for three to five minutes, then cover it with a clean cloth.
  • Never place ice on a burn.
  • Keep the burn elevated and call for emergency medical assistance if needed.
Children's, Health and Safety

Button Battery Dangers

Parents of small children are usually on-guard against potential choking hazards, but one item that is often overlooked is the button battery or disc battery. These batteries are about the size of a quarter or smaller and pose a dangerous risk to children if ingested.

Ann Slattery is the managing director of the Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama. She says they have received 60 calls related to disc batteries in the last three years. Thankfully none resulted in a fatality, but swallowing a disc battery can be extremely dangerous. Not only do they pose a choking hazard, but they can result in actual burns resulting in tissue damage and internal bleeding. When ingestion occurs, it’s crucial for the child to have an X-Ray to determine where the battery is located and if surgery is needed.

Between 1985-2009, more than 56,000 disc battery ingestions were reported to the National Poison Data System. Because these batteries are small, often hidden, and used in so many devices, they can often be overlooked. “These are in so many different products,” Slattery says. “They are in greeting cards, remotes, hearing aids and watches, even in children’s toys so they might get ahold of them.”

More often than not, the parent did not see the ingestion of the battery. Slattery says it’s important to recognize the symptoms. The symptoms of possible poisoning by ingesting a disc battering include coughing, choking, loss of appetite, irritability, and fever.

Slattery says in some cases of ingestion, if the battery is small and moved beyond the esophagus, it may pass uneventfully through the rest of the digestive system and pass within a matter of days. “However if it’s lodged in the esophagus, it is considered an emergency and requires immediate removal,” she says.

It’s important for parents to supervise their children and be aware of what they are playing with, and to think ‘does that have a battery inside?’

If you suspect your child has swallowed a disc battery, call the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If it’s an obvious medical emergency, call 911.

Children's, News

Oncology School Liaison Helps Patients Return to School with Ease

School is one of the most important parts of a child’s life. Continuing to keep up academically and stay connected with classmates is important for all children diagnosed with cancer or a blood disorder. Sometimes it is difficult and scary to return to school after their diagnosis and treatment or after a long hospital stay. The struggle may not always be due to medical reasons, but often the fear of classmates teasing them because of a change in appearance, worrying about keeping up with school work, or maybe feeling isolated from their peers.

The Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders, is a partnership between Children’s of Alabama, the UAB Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, the UAB Institute for Cancer Outcomes and Survivorship, along with childhood cancer research entities, such as the National Cancer Institute and Children’s Oncology Group. The Hope and Cope Psychosocial and Education Program uses a family-centered approach to provide support and services for emotional health and well-being.

The STAR (School/Social Transition and Reentry) initiative is a service of the Hope and Cope Psychosocial and Education Program that provides patients with an education/school liaison who maintains ongoing communication between the medical team, the child’s school and their family. This helps the student return to a more normal lifestyle and to feel comfortable going back to school.

 

“We help facilitate the patient’s reentry to school when the oncologist medically releases them to return,” said Education/School Liaison Caroline Davis, MS, CSP. “Our goal in a reentry class presentation is to help the child’s classmates better understand the child’s diagnosis and cancer treatment journey, and to inform the teachers about any special accommodations the student may need in the classroom, or unique learning challenges the student may have.”

 

There are a variety of specialized services that the education/school liaison offers to the child and their family throughout their treatment and into survivorship. Here is a look at how the liaison can help.

  • Aid the familyin understanding their child’s learning needs; to understand federal and state law, and how to advocate and effectively communicate with their child’s school system.
  • Assist the parents in obtaining special education servicesor program modifications when needed, including collaborating on Individualized Education Planning (IEP) meetings.
  • Accompany the parents to school meetings in person or participate through Skype (i.e., a software application that enables users to have video-conferences over the internet).
  • Present workshopsto educate the school system about unique learning patterns of childhood cancer survivors and evidenced based recommendations.
  • Help young people stay in touchwith classmates through use of webcams until they are ready to return to school.
  • Prepare young people, parents, and teachersfor the return to school after a long absence and empower the child to better advocate for themselves.
  • Give classroom presentationsto help classmates understand and support the young person living with a serious illness.
  • Teach problem-solving skills and role playingto help the young person or family members with school adjustments.

 

Davis states, “When we go to the classroom, the child is often overwhelmed and scared about returning to school, but after we show their personalized presentation about their journey to the other students, you can see the child begin to interact with peers and be involved in the discussion. It is extremely rewarding to see such a change in their confidence and self-esteem!”

 

For information about this exceptional benefit and/or our STAR program, please contact Caroline Davis at (205) 638-5421 or csdavis@peds.uab.edu.

 

Children's

ATV Safety

 
All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) are off-road vehicles for recreational use. They are very popular in Alabama, but with the thrill comes major risks.
 
Emergency department physicians at Children’s of Alabama treated more than 230 cases of ATV-related traumas in the past three years. Nationally, more than 100,000 ATV-related traumas are treated every year in emergency departments and more than one-third of those cases involve children under the age of 16.
 
Generally, ATVs can be unstable and prone to tip over. ATVs are more dangerous than bicycles and 12 times more likely to result in death.
 

Dr. Kristyn Jeffries is a resident physician at Children’s of Alabama. She has a personal experience with the dangers of children riding ATVs. A family friend lost their 11-year-old daughter due to an ATV accident. “That’s why I’m so motivated to prevent this tragedy from happening to other families,” she says. Jeffries is working closely with the staff at Children’s to promote ATV safety.
 
If a family does allow their child to ride on an ATV, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has important recommendations to help keep children safe.
 
ATV Safety Recommendations:
  • Drivers should be at least 16 years old
  • No passengers should ever ride on an ATV
  • Always wear a helmet, eye protection and reflective clothing when riding an ATV
  • Never drive an ATV on roadways
 
Jeffries says these recommendations are not only from the AAP, but from ATV manufacturers as well.
 
Jeffries also advises that it is not safe for an adult to hold a child while riding on an ATV.”Children who are younger than 6 years old are at highest risk of being thrown off of ATVs,” she said.
 
Riding an ATV is never without risk. Even when a rider takes proper precautions, they still may get hurt. That’s why Children’s of Alabama and the Injury Free Coalition for Kids have partnered to educate children and adults about ATV safety. They are available to speak to schools. To schedule a speaker, call 205-638-9587.
Children's

Back to School – National Immunization Awareness Month

With school just around the corner, it is important to make sure your child is ready. You have purchased the supplies, met the teacher and walked through their new schedule. What else should you do? Check your child’s immunization chart.

Dr. Peily Soong

“Make sure your child’s shots are up-to-date and they don’t need any vaccinations.” said Dr. Peily Soong with Pediatrics East. “During this time of year, pediatric offices get very busy with people needing immunizations and regular check-ups. Please do not wait until school starts or right after it starts.”

National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) is an annual observance held in August to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages.

Vaccines are essential to the health of your child. Being at school, where there are large concentrations of people, your child is at higher risk at contracting an illnesses.

“Schools will not let you in without completing necessary vaccinations,” said Dr. Soong. “So, make sure your child is ready.”

Check out Dr. Soong’s interview with Fox 6 News for more tips on getting ready to go back to school.

Why is it important to stay current with your child’s immunizations?

It is important to not only get initial immunizations, but also any other rounds or boosters that are recommended. In some cases, a single shot is not enough to protect your child from that disease.

Good news is if your child has missed shots in a series, there is no need to start over, simply pick up where they left off. Without the full course of a vaccine, your child is still at risk. These vaccinations will not only protect during adolescent years, but also throughout life.

Which vaccines does your child need?

Doctors are now recommending the following immunizations for teens against the following diseases:

  • diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (Tdap vaccine)
  • measles, mumps and rubella (MMR vaccine)
  • hepatitis A
  • hepatitis B
  • meningococcal disease (meningitis)
  • human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • varicella (chickenpox) if you have not had the disease
  • polio
  • flu (influenza)

According to Dr. Soong, rising kindergarteners and sixth graders are the most likely to need new vaccinations. It is important to check regardless of your child’s age to know if your child is ready for school.

Of course, if your child has a pre-existing disease that affects their immune system, they may need other vaccinations. There are also some cases in which children should not be vaccinated for certain diseases. Check with your pediatrician regarding your specific child’s needs.

_____

You may be thinking, “My child hates shots and pitches a fit even at the word.” There are techniques to make shots easier, such as encouraging your child to take calming breaths or even coughing as the needle goes in. Regardless of the fear, remind them that the shot itself lasts only for a second, but the protection lasts a long, long time after that.

To find a practice near you, visit childrensal.org/practices.

Children's

Insect Bites

It is summer in Alabama; school is out and the sun is shining. Kids are spending more time outside, which can also increase the number of bug bites they get while playing. It is important to teach children about different types of insect bites.

Most bug bites and stings are harmless and will get better on their own without seeing a doctor. Other bug bites can be more painful and serious.  Let’s take a look at the different signs and symptoms of insect bites, and when you should see a doctor.

Common Mild Reactions:

Treat at home with over the counter lotion, antihistamines, pain medicine and ice pack if needed (see package insert for dosing instructions)

  • Red bump
  • Mild swelling
  • Itching
  • Light pain

Example: ant bite, mosquito bite, bee sting without allergic reaction

 

Common Moderate Reactions:

Your child may need to see his/her primary doctor. If you feel that it is an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department.

  • Hives
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Dizziness or fainting

Example: spider bite, bee or wasp sting without allergic reaction

 

Serious Reactions:

Call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Department

  • Swelling of the face, lips or tongue
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing

Example: Bee or ant sting with an allergy, spider bites

 

Special Treatment for Ticks:

Ticks are very common in our area and require different treatment. If you find a tick on your child:

  1. Grasp the tick with tweezers (close to your child’s skin)
  2. Pull firmly until the tick lets go of the skin
  3. Place the tick in a zip locked bag (your doctor might want to test the tick)
  4. Wash your hands
  5. Clean the tick bite site with alcohol
  6. Call your child’s doctor

 

Prevention:

Below are quick tips to keep bugs away

  • Apply bug spray that contains 10-30% DEET
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Stay away from standing water and wood piles
  • Protect yourself by wearing long sleeves and pants in wooded areas
  • Wear gloves while gardening
  • Do not disturb bee or wasp nests

 

Kids should enjoy playing outdoors while they are out of school in the summertime. Knowing what to do for bug bites and stings is very important. Go outside and have some fun with your kids, but be aware of the bugs!

 

The blog was written using content from KidsHealth.org

Children's

Playground Safety

Kids love to play on the playground and there are a lot of benefits to outdoor play. Playgrounds are an opportunity for kids to get fresh air, sunshine, exercise and make new friends. Marie Crew agrees. She’s the director of Alabama Safe Kids at Children’s of Alabama. “Alabama has a high obesity rate, so we want the children to be active. We want kids playing at least 60 minutes a day,” she said.

It’s important that parents do their part to ensure their child’s time on the playground is fun and injury-free. Each year, more than 200,000 kids are treated in hospital emergency departments for playground- related injuries. Many of these accidents are preventable with the proper supervision.

“That’s the big thing. We want parents to be with their children,” Crew said. “Parents should check the playground to be sure it’s in good repair. We want parents to put their phones down and interact with their children.”

Children should never play on a playground unsupervised. Young children can’t always judge distances properly and can’t foresee dangerous situations while older children like to test their limits. It’s important for an adult to be there to help keep them safe.

In addition to supervision, before children play on a playground, an adult should always check it for safety. Make sure the playground equipment is in good shape. If it has instructions on it, be sure to read them. Many playgrounds indicate the recommended age range for children.  Toddlers should be on a separate playground with special equipment that is lower to the ground.

Crew said a proper playground surface is important as well. “It’s best to have a soft, spongy surface that can cushion falls. Shredded tires, pea gravel and and mulch are options as well,” she said. Concrete, asphalt, grass and packed earth surfaces are not safe.

Modern playgrounds are often made of plastic instead of metal, which can get too hot. Even still, Crew recommends parents think about the heat of the day and check the equipment before their child plays on it to make sure it isn’t too hot.

Children love for their parents to engage with them when they’re playing on the playground. A good recommendation is for the adult to be close by, encouraging and watching their child while they play. Play is an important part of kids physical, social, intellectual and emotional development. By taking a few extra precautions, they can learn and grow through play while being more likely to stay safe and injury-free.