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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.

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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.

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

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.

Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is the most common rheumatic disease of childhood and affects about one in 1,000 children. It is a chronic autoimmune disease which does not go away because it is a result of the person’s own immune system.

An autoimmune disease is one in which white blood cells cannot tell the difference between the body’s own healthy cells and germs like bacteria and viruses. The immune system, which is supposed to protect the body from these harmful invaders, instead releases chemicals that can damage healthy tissues and cause inflammation and pain.

“Each year more than 1,000 patients are treated in our rheumatology clinic,” said Dr. Melissa Mannion, pediatric rheumatologist at Children’s of Alabama. “It is our goal to provide patients with resources and treatments to develop growth and development.”

Dr. Melissa Mannion

Signs and Symptoms

The first signs of arthritis can be subtle or obvious, so an early and accurate diagnosis is key to effectively managing JIA. According to Dr. Mannion, the criteria for diagnosis includes age less than 16 at the onset of symptoms, symptoms present for at least six weeks, symptoms including the presence of arthritis on exam, and no other explanation for the arthritis-like cancer or infection.

Understanding the symptoms and characteristics of each type of JIA is crucial. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Limping
  • Warm joints
  • Sore wrist, finger or knee
  • Sudden swelling of joins that remain enlarged
  • Stiffness in the neck, hips or other joints

“If someone’s disease stays inactive for a long time, usually at least six months, they are said to be in remission,” she said. “Remission means that the disease is quiet, but the disease itself is not gone since there is no cure. Sometimes remission can last for months, years or a person’s lifetime.”

Diagnosis

If a parent is worried that their child has arthritis they should talk to their pediatrician. The pediatrician will evaluate the duration of the symptoms, what hurts, when it hurts, where the swelling occurs, how long it lasts, what makes the pain or swelling better or worse, and if there are any other symptoms like fever or rashes. They will also help determine if your child needs to see a rheumatologist.

To diagnose JIA, the rheumatologist will ask questions about the child’s symptoms, find out whether other family members have had similar problems, and do a thorough physical examination.

It is important that the doctor identifies any additional signs or symptoms to classify or describe the type of JIA, as there are multiple. In some cases, the doctor will use imaging, like musculoskeletal ultrasound or MRI, to look for inflammation inside the joints. The doctor may also order X-rays or blood tests to rule out other conditions or infections, such as Lyme disease, that may cause similar symptoms or occur along with the arthritis.

Treatment

The health care providers, including the primary care physician, rheumatologist, and physical therapist, will work together to develop the best method of treatment for each child.

“Medications are used to control the immune system to stop the symptoms and prevent damage from the disease,” she said. “Some patients can be treated with a steroid injection into the joint, but because the immune system is not only located in one joint most patients will need systemic medications to control their disease.”

The goals of treatment are to relieve pain and inflammation, slow down or prevent the destruction of joints, and restore use and function of the joints to promote optimal growth, physical activity, and social and emotional development.

Facilities

Children’s division consists of five board-certified pediatric rheumatologists, one pediatric rheumatology fellow (in-training), and three nurse practitioners who see patients with the faculty members. Patients can be seen at the Children’s of Alabama main campus, Children’s South on Acton Road, and in satellite clinics in Huntsville, Montgomery, and Mobile.

For more information, visit childrensal.org/rheumatology.