Monthly Archives

October 2015

Children's, Health and Safety


Fall is a time of year when kids often pick up colds and other viruses. Unfortunately they’re also more at risk of getting something more serious, meningitis.

Meningitis is a disease involving inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.

There are two types of meningitis: viral and bacterial.

“The prognosis for viral meningitis is very good,” according to Dr. Mark Baker, a physician in the Emergency Department at Children’s of Alabama. “It’s relatively common and usually goes away in about a week. The prognosis for bacterial meningitis depends on how quickly you get treatment.

Viral meningitis

As Dr. Baker indicated, viral meningitis is the most common form. It’s usually less serious than bacterial meningitis. It’s caused by many different types of viruses, including those that infect the skin, urinary tract, or digestive and respiratory systems.

Children with viral meningitis may present a lot of flu like symptoms.

  • These include:
  • fever
  • headache
  • sensitivity to light
  • fatigue
  • fussiness
  • nausea
  • neck stiffness
  • vomiting

To identify meningitis, doctors may do a spinal tap (lumbar puncture) to get a sample of the cerebrospinal fluid for testing. Most people recover on their own within 7-10 days.

Bacterial meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is rare, but is usually more serious and can be life threatening if not treated immediately.

Bacterial meningitis is caused by different types of bacteria. Bacteria that infect the skin, urinary tract, gastrointestinal and respiratory system can spread via the bloodstream to the meninges.

Sometimes bacteria may spread from severe head trauma or a severe local infection, such as a serious ear or nasal infection.

A person with bacterial meningitis may have:

  • fever
  • headache
  • stiff neck
  • sensitivity to light
  • extreme tiredness
  • irritability
  • nausea
  • vomiting

If untreated, bacterial meningitis can lead to seizures, coma and even death.

For this reason Baker said it’s important to see your child’s physician anytime they are ill and don’t seem to be acting like themselves.

“Anytime you think your child is seriously ill, or something doesn’t seem right,” he said. “It’s a good idea to have your doctor check them out or come to the emergency room and have a doctor check them. Also, if your child has had contact with someone who has meningitis, you should call your doctor to see if preventive medication is recommended.”

Treatment for bacterial meningitis includes an extended hospital stay with a strong dose of IV fluids and antibiotics.

There is encouraging news, though, in terms of prevention. Routine immunizations can go a long way toward preventing meningitis. The vaccines against Hib, measles, mumps, polio, meningococcus, and pneumococcus can protect against meningitis caused by these microorganisms.

Children's, News

Children’s of Alabama Expands Child Maltreatment Services

Dr. Michael A. Taylor is director of the newly created Division of Child Abuse Pediatrics at Children’s of Alabama and professor of Pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). He is board certified in general pediatrics and child abuse pediatrics. He has extensive experience in providing medical services and support to abused and neglected children.

Michael Taylor

Michael Taylor

Child maltreatment is a significant public health problem in Alabama, as it is in all states. The most recent statistics available show there were nearly 20,000 reports of child abuse or neglect during 2013 in Alabama, with about 9,000 children confirmed as victims. And that is just the tip of the iceberg, with cases often going unreported and under-reported. Studies indicate that about 1-in-8 children nationally are victims of serious abuse or neglect by the time they reach their 18th year.

Children’s of Alabama is responding to this widespread problem with the creation of a new Child Abuse Pediatrics Division. It will expand the current services provided by the Children’s Hospital Intervention and Prevention Services (CHIPS) Center.

Child maltreatment encompasses a wide variety of conditions, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, caregiver fabricated illness (previously referred to as Munchausen syndrome by proxy), neglect and psychological/emotional abuse. Thus, child abuse pediatricians must work within medical, child welfare, law enforcement and judicial systems. We are often called to testify in court.

The CHIPS Center has provided forensic medical evaluations, psychosocial assessments, play therapy, counseling, case management services, prevention education, court support and expert court testimony in cases of suspected child abuse. Drs. Melisa Peters and David Bernard have provided medical care to maltreated children at Children’s for many years through the CHIPS Center and the Emergency Department (ED); however their availability to provide care has been stretched between these two services.

The UAB Department of Pediatrics and Children’s created the new Division of Child Abuse Pediatrics along with a full-time director, a position I am honored to hold. This division will provide oversight for existing child maltreatment services being offered through Children’s and UAB. This includes The CHIPS Center, the pediatric sexual assault nurse examiner (P-SANE) program, which operates out of the ED, and other physical abuse and neglect services. Drs. Bernard and Peters have invaluable experience serving maltreated children and are both board certified in general pediatrics, child abuse pediatrics and pediatric emergency medicine. They will continue to play key roles with Dr. Bernard as the medical director for the SANE program and Dr. Peters as the medical director for The CHIPS Center.

These actions are moving Children’s to the advanced tier of services for child maltreatment. Over the next five years we will move to develop at Children’s a “Center of Excellence,” the top tier as defined by the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA). This expansion will involve an extended regional presence, larger child protection teams, an accredited fellowship, research initiatives and increased family intervention and prevention services.

I have a special affection for Children’s, having served my pediatric residency here and serving as a long-time pediatrician at the University Medical Center in Tuscaloosa. And I am passionate about providing medical services to our most vulnerable children.

Children’s has a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center, a large Emergency Department, a nationally known neonatal intensive care unit, pediatric cardiovascular services, the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders and many other top organizations within top organizations. Children’s is now becoming a leader in the recognition, management and prevention of child maltreatment.