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Health and Safety

Bicycle Safety

Biking is a beneficial summer activity for children because it provides an opportunity to exercise, get outside, play and interact with other children. However, parents should consider these tips as their child engages in bike riding this summer. Children should be efficient in their bike-riding skills and proficient in the rules of the road before embarking on their own biking adventures. Parents should ride alongside their child until they are confident that they can ride on their own.

When riding a bike, always remember to do the following:

  • Wear a securely-fitted helmet and fasten the chin strap
  • Follow traffic signs and signals
  • Ride in the same direction as traffic
  • Stay in the bike lane whenever possible
  • Look left, right and left again before entering street or crossing intersection
  • Use the sidewalk appropriately and be alert of other pedestrians
  • Never use electronics while riding
  • Use hand signals when changing directions
  • Make sure you ride in a straight line and do not swerve around cars – be predictable as you ride
  • Use lights on your bike and wear bright-colored clothing

State Chapter Director of Division of SAFE Kids Alabama, Julie Farmer, said, “Parents should model good behavior and always wear a helmet when riding a bike.” Parents should teach their child how to ride a bike in a safe area, such as an unused parking lot or empty athletic track. Children need to be taught the rules of the road and safety hand signals. A good resource to teach hand signals  is provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at  www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.gov/files/8009-handsignals.pdf

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), “A majority of the 80,000 cycling-related head injuries treated in emergency rooms each year are brain injuries.”

According to Safe Kids, “Properly-fitted helmets can reduce the risk of head injuries by at least 45% – yet less than half of children 14 and under usually wear a bike helmet.” The Alabama law for bike helmets states that children under the age of 16 must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. In cases of violation, the child’s parent or guardian may receive up to a $50 citation.

Parents should always make sure their child has the right size helmet. Your child’s helmet should align with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s standards and have a certification stamp on the side – either Ansi or Snell. The fit and certification of a helmet is more important than the cost of the helmet itself. In addition, parents should make sure their child knows how to correctly put on the helmet to ensure their head is protected.

“A helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position, and should not rock forward, backward or side to side. The helmet straps must always be buckled, but not too tightly,” said Farmer.

In addition to helmet fit, proper bike fit is extremely important to ensure a safe ride. If possible, parents should bring their child along with them to the store when shopping for a bike. Be sure your child’s feet can touch the ground when they sit on the bike.

Before your child leaves on a bike ride, make sure:

  • The reflectors are stable
  • Brakes work efficiently
  • Gears shift easily
  • Tires are properly secured and inflated
  • Helmet is secured
  • Your child is not wearing long, loose clothing, flip-flops or sandals

Children should be at least 10 years old before riding a bike without a parent present. There are many factors that contribute to the decision, such as traffic, sidewalks available or where someone lives, but 10 years old is a good choice. At this age, children have the cognitive ability to determine how close the sound or sight of cars are in relation to their current location. To learn more about this or other safety topics, visit our website at childrensal.org.

Children's, Health and Safety, News

Patient Noah Stewart Remembers the 2011 Tornado Outbreak and His Care Team at Children’s

Ten years ago, on April 27, 2011, Noah Stewart – then an 8-year-old living in Pleasant Grove – was one of more than 60 children treated in our Emergency Department as part of a widespread outbreak of tornadoes throughout Alabama.

Noah Stewart shelters in the closet just 15 minutes before an April 2011 tornado demolished his house. Wearing the helmet may have saved his life, one doctor says.

Now 18, Noah is a freshman at Troy University and is a member of the Sound of the South marching band drumline. We caught up with Noah about his experience that day. Experts said one of the reasons he survived a tornado striking his home was because he was wearing a baseball helmet. At the time, that was a novel concept. Today it’s a standard part of severe weather preparation.

“The first thing I remember about April 27, 2011, is there being a tornado warning and my mom telling me to put on my baseball helmet,” he remembered. “At that point, I got a little worried, grabbed the stuffed animal my girlfriend had given me and went to our designated safe place, my parents’ walk-in closet. My dad got home from work and we, my parents, my sister Haley and I, all took shelter literally minutes before the tornado hit.

“I remember losing power, the whistle of the wind and then a very, very low rumble. It sounded like a train, getting louder and louder the closer it came. In an instant, the house exploded, and we were all sucked out by the tornado. The experience was like being swallowed by a huge wave in the ocean; I couldn’t tell up from down or right from left – I was lost. It was over as quickly as it began except that I was about 50 yards from where I was only seconds before, now laying in a field of debris against the twisted remains of a tree stump.  My parents and sister landed in different locations, but they all crawled to me. There was an immediate calm after the storm, but we soon noticed everything we owned was gone. In that moment it didn’t matter because we all survived and so did our dogs, Jack and Cody. My mom and Haley were taken by ambulance directly to the hospital. I was placed on the remains of a broken door. My dad and I were carried in the back of a pickup truck to a triage location several blocks away. Dad and I were separated when he was transported by ambulance. Several hours later, I was sent to Children’s. I was wet, cold and alone without my family but the doctors, nurses and staff were amazing. They made me feel safe and comforted me as they stitched and bandaged my cuts and bruises.”

Noah was treated that night by Drs. Mark Baker and Michele Nichols and a host of other staff.

“I wish I knew the names of each person that helped me that night,” he said. “Children’s befriended me and allowed me to be a part of several events like the Regions Classic and the dedication of the Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children. This gave me an opportunity to tell my story and about the importance of protecting your head by wearing a helmet during a storm. I had a reunion with the ER doctors, nurses and staff on the one-year anniversary of the tornado. I am unable to visit on this anniversary as I will be in Troy but my admiration and appreciation for the doctors, nurses and staff of Children’s is as strong today as it was on April 27, 2011.

“Thank you all so much for what you did for me that night and what you continue to do for the children of Alabama and throughout the world. Just as I told you on the one-year anniversary visit, you guys are my angels and I will always appreciate the care and support you gave me. You are truly heroes! Because of Dr. Bakers’ research on the use of helmets as protection during tornadoes, many lives have been saved and the use of helmets during emergency weather events is widely practiced and encouraged by life safety professionals throughout the United States.”

Noah Stewart currently attends Troy University

Is your family prepared for severe weather? The 2021 tornado season is off to a deadly start. Already this year, twisters are blamed for the deaths of more than 200 people in the US.

“Children are at risk during tornadoes because of their relatively large heads,” Dr. Baker said. “Noah’s helmet helped protect him after he was thrown high in the air. We also found two more children who were protected by infant carriers when the tornado hit their homes. Helmet use and getting in a safe place can make a big difference when violent weather strikes.”

Have your safe place planned as part of a disaster plan. During a tornado, the best bet is to lay low. The basement is the best tornado safety shelter if available; if not, have an alternate place to seek shelter quickly when necessary. If you’re outside when a tornado hits, seek cover in a safe building or in a ditch, using your hands to protect your head and neck. Families who live in a mobile home should talk to neighbors or the park owner about tornado safety options.

  • Have a portable radio (with new batteries) on hand as part of your tornado safety plan. In the event of an emergency, someone needs to listen and be aware of the two types of reports given when weather conditions are right for a tornado: A “tornado watch” means that a tornado is possible. A “tornado warning” means that a tornado has been sighted; people who are in its path should go to their tornado safety shelter immediately. A local or state map will help you visually follow the path of the tornado when listening to radio reports.
  • Have a helmet designated for each member of your family in your safe place. The most common injury related to tornados is head injury, and doctors believe helmets can prevent the majority of head trauma during severe weather. Baseball, bicycle and football helmets are all good examples of protective head gear and should have a well-fitted chin strap to keep the helmet secure.
  • Put together an emergency supplies kit. The emergency kit should include everything that might be needed during or in the aftermath of a tornado, especially if power is lost or water sources are affected. Bottled water, flashlights, batteries, prescription medicine, a first aid kit, and snacks or non-perishable food for the family are essential components of the supplies kit. Make sure the kit is easily accessible in the event it’s needed. Include notepad and pen in your kit if you are worried that your child might be anxious or frightened while executing your disaster plan. Having him or her write a journal entry on the experience of preparing for a tornado or inclement weather helps your child overcome feelings of helplessness and will also provide an interesting record of events for the future. Also, based on your child’s age, you may be able to assign him a task or two to help him or her feel more in charge of the situation. Something that doesn’t require much supervision is ideal; tasks such as testing all the flashlights and replacing batteries as needed, putting together snack bags for family members, or even occupying younger children while you are working on preparations. Giving your child some responsibility will make them feel more secure and help reduce their anxiety about the chaotic nature of the storm.
  • Moving lawn furniture and trash cans out of the storm’s path and removing dead limbs from trees in the yard can be a life-saving tornado safety precaution. Even small items can become dangerous when propelled by high winds. Make sure to move these items several hours before the storm arrives.
  • Set up a disaster plan with extended members of your family. Tornados typically strike during late afternoon and early evening, but they have been known to touch down in the middle of the night. Families should decide ahead of time which family members are responsible for calling the rest of the family to warn them and to provide them with updates as part of the tornado safety checklist.
  • If tornado sirens are sounded, it usually indicates that a tornado warning has been issued by the National Weather Service and you need to get to your “safe place.” If you happen to be outside and the sirens go off, do not panic. Find a culvert pipe, a ditch, or a low-lying area. Lie flat, cover your head and get to safety as soon as the storm has passed. In the event of severe weather, the sirens will sound when there has been damage equal to that is similar to that of a small tornado. This damage may include downed trees, power lines and property damage.

For more information on this and other children’s health and safety issues, please visit childrensal.org.

Children's, Health and Safety

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

One in four children experience some sort of neglect or abuse in their lives and one in seven have experienced abuse or neglect in the last year (American Academy of Pediatrics). In over 90% of abusive situations, a child is abused – sexually or physically – by someone they know. Abuse is often carried out by the child’s caregiver.

The current health and economic crisis induced by COVID-19 intensified several challenges for children. Loss of jobs and resources, health concerns, and isolation have led to high stress among families. Director of the Children’s Hospital Intervention and Prevention Services (CHIPS) Center, Debra Schneider, said, “Increased stress levels among parents is often a major predictor of physical abuse and neglect of children.” Stressed guardians may be more likely to respond to their child’s behavior in an aggressive way. The support systems that many at-risk parents rely on, such as extended family, childcare, schools, religious groups and other community organizations, were no longer available in many areas due to the stay-at-home orders. Child protection agencies also experienced strained resources with fewer workers available, making them unable to conduct home visits in areas with stay-at-home orders.

Schneider, said, “There has been more suspected physical abuse cases seen by the CHIPS Center in the last six months directly relating to the pandemic compared to before.” Kids are at home more under the supervision of their caregivers. Caregivers aren’t getting as much of a break because the kids are not in school.

Vulnerable situations and disasters such as the tornadoes that recently plagued central Alabama can also lead to misplaced and unsupervised children, which can then result in abusive situations.

Lack of understanding regarding child development can also lead to abuse. In instances of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, Schneider said the child is often left in the care of a family member or significant other. That person may not understand the process of child development and expects a child to do a task they cannot yet fulfill – such as walking, feeding themselves or being potty-trained. They may take out their anger on the child through a form of abuse if they cannot fulfill the task.

Signs to watch out for in victims of abuse and abusers:

There are many signs that may indicate a child is being abused. Children who are being abused might:

  • Have new onset fears
  • Have a vocabulary too advanced regarding sexual activity
  • Be withdrawn from friends and family
  • Have nightmares
  • Experience a drop in their grades
  • Change in appearance (wearing clothes that don’t align with the weather)
  • Not want to go home
  • Start using drugs
  • Bully others
  • Be sad or depressed
  • Have stories to explain injuries that don’t make sense or keep changing
  • Not want to be with the abuser
  • Act out at school

There are also signs to watch out for in abusers themselves. They usually walk the victim through a grooming process. Schneider said it is important to remember that the child is usually not abused 24/7. The relationship often consists of a more positive bond. The abuser knows what the child likes, is curious about and afraid of, and they use it to their advantage. Some sort of ‘relationship’ is formed, and a trust is established between them. That way, when harm enters the picture, the child is less likely to question their character and actions. Other signs include spending more time with the child than is appropriate, giving extraordinary gifts to the child more than what’s normal, using excuses to be alone with the child and implementing gaslighting techniques. Gaslighting is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “presenting false information to the victim with the intent of making them doubt their own memory and perception.”

Most kids think abuse comes from a stranger, but abusers are usually someone a child knows. Schneider suggests teaching kids “stranger danger;” however, build off that concept to make them aware that abusers can be someone they know.

Steps for parents to take to prevent or stop abuse:

Parents should be aware of abusive situations and know the signs to look out for in children when they are victims of abuse. The child who has endured abuse the longest typically has the longest healing process.  The quicker an abusive situation is reported, the faster a child will be removed from the situation and be provided with medical care, therapy and counseling to heal.

If an adult suspects an abusive situation, they should report it immediately. Anyone can provide an anonymous report of abuse and NOT have to prove it.

Children in an abusive situation need a trusted adult to confide in – whether that is a teacher, friend’s caregiver or guidance counselor. Schools encourage a child to tell three adults; two inside and one outside their family. That trusted adult can clearly communicate to the child, “I am here for you if anything is going on. I am not here to judge.” In some instances, the trusted adult’s child may be present for the conversation if it creates a comfortable atmosphere for the child experiencing abuse.

Adults who suspect abuse should approach the child gently. If the adult asks too many questions, the child may feel in trouble. Adults should never make promises to not tell anyone, since that is a key action to be taken when stopping abusive situations. Remind the child that abuse is NEVER their fault.

Since conversations about abuse can be very difficult to bring up, adults should consider this advice when approaching a suspected victim of abuse. Schneider suggests bringing up an incident from the news as a segue into a conversation about the abusive situation. In addition, having these conversations in the car creates a more relaxed, noninvasive environment.

The next step for adults would be to report to the local department of human resources or a child protective services agency. You can also contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). You don’t have to give your name. If the child is in immediate danger, call 911.

 “Abuse is not the child’s whole story,” Schneider said. “There is hope when intervention occurs.”

Children's, News

Children’s of Alabama President, CEO Mike Warren Announces Retirement; Tom Shufflebarger Named New CEO

Mike Warren
Mike Warren

BIRMINGHAM (April 15, 2021) – Mike Warren, president and chief executive officer of Children’s of Alabama, is retiring from the state’s only freestanding pediatric hospital, effective June 1, 2021.

Warren, who has served as CEO at Children’s since January 2008, will be succeeded by Tom Shufflebarger, currently serving as chief operating officer and senior executive vice president. The announcements were made by the hospital’s board of directors today.

“Together, we have accomplished a great deal over these past 13 years, the crown jewel of which is the Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children. That addition transformed our campus and allowed us to move transplant surgery and cardiovascular services to Children’s – truly making us a comprehensive pediatric medical facility. Along the way we greatly expanded many services, making tremendous progress in fulfilling our mission to the children and families of Alabama. With Tom set to take the helm, Children’s is positioned to achieve even greater things,” Warren said.

“Under Mike’s leadership, Children’s has thrived, and we are grateful for his service. We are confident in Tom’s ability to continue to carry out the mission of Children’s and guide the organization as a leader in pediatric healthcare here in the state, the region and beyond,” said Temple Tutwiler III, chairman, Children’s Board of Trustees.

Shufflebarger joined Children’s in 1992, having previously served as the budget director and director of physician recruitment and development for Brookwood Medical Center. At Children’s, Shufflebarger has managed the hospital’s daily operations and policy decisions. He also directs the operations and development of Children’s Physician Services, including Pediatric Practice Solutions (Children’s primary care practices), Hospital Ambulatory Care Services, and business relationships with Health Services Foundation and hospital-based physicians.

Tom Shufflebarger
Tom Shufflebarger

Shufflebarger is an honors graduate of Duke University where he earned both a Bachelor of Arts in economics and a Master of Business Administration. He is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and has served as a Trustee of the Alabama Chapter of the American Hospital Association. He currently serves as chairman of the Child Health Patient Safety Organization, an affiliate of the Children’s Hospital Association. Active in numerous community organizations, he has served in volunteer leadership roles with the United Way of Central Alabama, American Red Cross, Magic Moments, the Lakeshore Foundation, Riverchase United Methodist Church and Hoover City Schools.

“I am honored to be named the next CEO of Children’s of Alabama,” Shufflebarger said. “It is a humbling experience to be part of the strong legacy of providing care for ill and injured children from throughout the region. As the past year has taught us, Children’s of Alabama stands ready to face the challenges of modern healthcare, while remaining firmly dedicated to providing the highest standards of care for our patients and their families.”

Under Warren’s leadership, Children’s of Alabama has grown both in size and standing.

In May 2009, the hospital broke ground on an expansion that would become the Benjamin Russell Hospital for Children. The 12-story building was designed to accommodate projected growth in patient volume, anticipated medical technology needs and the planned consolidation of pediatric services including cardiovascular surgery and comprehensive solid organ transplant care. The $400 million facility opened to patients in August 2012.

In 2010, six of the hospital’s programs were ranked for the first time among the nation’s best children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. The most recent ranking released in June 2020 marked the 11th consecutive year that Children’s has been included.

The relationship between Children’s and the University of Alabama at Birmingham strengthened under Warren’s leadership as the two institutions worked together to offer world-class pediatric health services in an environment that fosters world-class research, excellence in medical education and access to leading-edge treatments for pediatric illnesses and injuries.

Warren has long been a leader in Birmingham’s business community, previously serving as chairman and chief executive officer of Energen Corporation and its two primary subsidiaries, Alagasco and Energen Resources. Prior to that, Warren practiced law with the Birmingham firm of Bradley, Arant, Rose & White. Warren served 22 years on the Children’s of Alabama board of trustees before he was named the hospital’s CEO. He has been in involved in many state and local efforts and served as chairman of the Business Council of Alabama, the United Way, Leadership Birmingham and Leadership Alabama. He has also been chairman of the Metropolitan Development Board, and the area American Heart Association. He has twice chaired the general campaign for the United Way and the United Negro College Fund. In 2004, Warren was inducted to the Alabama Academy of Honor.

Since 1911, Children’s of Alabama has provided specialized medical care for ill and injured children. Ranked among the best children’s hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s serves patients from every county in Alabama and nearly every state. With more than 3.5 million square feet, it is one of the largest pediatric medical facilities in the United States. Children’s offers inpatient and outpatient services at its Russell Campus on Birmingham’s historic Southside with additional specialty services provided at Children’s South, Children’s on 3rd and in Huntsville and Montgomery. Primary medical care is provided in more than a dozen communities across central Alabama. Children’s is the only health system in Alabama dedicated solely to the care and treatment of children. It is a private, not-for-profit medical center that serves as the teaching hospital for the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) pediatric medicine, surgery, psychiatry, research and residency programs. The medical staff consists of UAB faculty and Children’s full-time physicians as well as private practicing community physicians.

Children's, News

Viral Immunotherapy For Pediatric Brain Tumors Shows Promise

A modified herpes virus, alone and in combination with radiation, has been shown to be well tolerated with early signs of clinical effectiveness in pediatric patients with high-grade brain tumors, or gliomas, according to findings from researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Children’s of Alabama. The findings were presented at the virtual American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2021, held April 10-15 and published online in the New England Journal of Medicine on April 10.

Dr. Gregory Friedman
Dr. Gregory Friedman

Brain tumors are the most common solid tumor in children, and aggressive types like glioblastoma have an extremely low survival rate: as low as 10 percent five years after diagnosis. Even tumors successfully treated by surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy have a high recurrence rate.

“This is the first study utilizing delivery of a viral immunotherapy directly into the tumor of children with brain tumors, and the results indicate the engineered herpes virus can be delivered safely into tumors located in all areas of the cerebrum in children,” said Gregory Friedman, M.D., professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UAB, research scientist at the UAB O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, and director of developmental therapeutics for the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at UAB and Children’s of Alabama. “The key findings thus far are that the approach is safe and well tolerable, and the preliminary evidence of efficacy is promising.”

In the Phase 1 clinical trial of 12 patients between 7 and 18 years of age, the investigators employed a modified virus known as G207, derived from the herpes virus responsible for cold sores. The virus is genetically altered so that it infects only tumor cells. When injected into a malignant brain tumor via a catheter, the virus enters the tumor cells and replicates. This kills the cell and releases the virus’s progeny to hunt out other tumor cells. Additionally, the virus induces a strong immune response by the body’s immune system, which can attack the tumor. The trial tested G207 alone and then combined with a single low-dose of radiation designed to increase virus replication and spread throughout the tumor.

G207 is the product of more than 30 years of research. James Markert, M.D., MPH, chair of the UAB Department of Neurosurgery, was part of the team at Massachusetts General Hospital in the early 1990’s that first developed the concept of using oncolytic herpes viruses. He worked on the parent virus for G207 and conducted the first clinical study of G207 at UAB. Today the use of viral therapies is under investigation for nearly every type of cancer.

A second-generation virus, called M032, has been developed by Markert and collaborators Yancey Gillespie, Ph.D., professor of neurosurgery, and Richard Whitley, M.D., Distinguished Professor of pediatric infectious disease, and is in clinical trials at UAB in adults with glioblastoma. UAB investigator Renee Chambers, DVM, M.D., is using M032 in a study of brain tumors in dogs, which can develop tumors very similar to those in humans.

In the current trial, 11 of the 12 patients demonstrated a treatment response. The overall survival rate was more than double the typical survival rate for children with high-grade glioma. Some 36 percent of the patients thus far have survived longer than 18 months, surpassing the medial overall survival for newly diagnosed patients with high-grade glioma.

Friedman’s team reports that G207 alone or in combination with radiation therapy was well tolerated, with no serious adverse side effects attributed to the treatment.

“There are still more studies needed; but thus far, viral immunotherapy with several different viruses, including herpes virus, has shown promise in treating high-grade brain tumors in both adults and children,” Friedman said. “We also have an ongoing clinical trial to test the safety of G207 when delivered into the cerebellum, an area of the brain that has not been tested before in adults or children but is the most common location for pediatric tumors to arise.”

Friedman says the next steps are to determine the ideal timing to treat patients and what therapies can be used with viral immunotherapy to maximize the anti-tumor immune response. Based on the encouraging Phase 1 trial results, he and his team are working with the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium to develop a multi-institutional Phase 2 trial of G207 for progressive pediatric high-grade glioma, which they hope to initiate later this year.

The study was supported by the United States Food and Drug Administration Orphan Products Clinical Trials Grants Program, Cannonball Kids’ Cancer Foundation, the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research, Hyundai Hope on Wheels, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, and the Kaul Pediatric Research Institute. G207 was provided by Treovir, LLC.

Friedman is supported, in part, by contracts between UAB and Eli Lilly and Co. and Pfizer. Markert and Whitley have financial interests in Treovir, LLC, which provided G207 for the trial. 

Children's

Inclement Weather Updates

March 25, 2021 12:30 p.m.

Due to the potential for severe weather in the area, the following office locations will be closed for the remainder of the day.

  • Greenvale Pediatrics (Hoover, Alabaster, Brook Highland)
  • Vestavia Pediatrics
  • Mayfair Medical Group
  • Pediatrics West (Bessemer, McAdory)

Most locations will still have a physician on call for urgent medical needs. Please call your child’s pediatrician’s after hours number or answering service to be connected to a doctor.

If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. 

March 25, 2021 – 9:30 a.m.

We are monitoring today’s severe weather forecast. Any information about office closings will be posted here and to childrensal.org/weather throughout the day.

If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. 

Children's, Health and Safety

Poisonings: Prepare, Prevent, Protect

Your home should be a safe place for your family, but there are actually many hidden dangers. Our homes are filled with poisonous substances. Knowing the dangers and how to prevent them can keep kids safe.
Ann Slattery is the director of the Alabama Poison Information Center at Children’s of Alabama. She says parents and grandparents should do their part to “Prepare, Prevent, and Protect” kids against accidental poisoning.

PREPARE
Prepare now for the possible event of poisoning. Slattery recommends saving the toll free number for the Alabama Poison Information Center in your phone to keep it close at hand at all times. The number is 1-800-222-1222. Also, she recommends every home have a carbon monoxide detector, and that adults should prepare a list of all medications. “For adults we say have a list of your everyday medications available in case you have to call the poison center,” she said.

PREVENT
Act now to prevent the risk of poisoning. Store all cleaning products up and out of reach of children. Slattery also recommends storing prescription medicine in lock boxes. “Make sure you have child resistant closures on your medications,” she said. “Remember there is no such thing as child proof.” Slattery advises to remember this risk when visitors are in the home. You never know what guests may have in their bags, so store purses and suitcases out of reach or behind locked doors and away from children.

PROTECT
In the unfortunate event that an exposure does occur, call the Alabama Poison Information Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222. Slattery advises that if the individual is unconscious, having trouble breathing or experiencing a seizure to instead call 911 immediately.

By taking the proper precautions now, you can help keep children safe from the risk of poisoning. But if an accident does happen, be prepared to act quickly in the event of an emergency.

Children's, Development

Screen Time and Teens: The Hidden Pandemic

Screen Time and Teens

While the world has been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, an underlying, hidden pandemic has been growing – screen time among teenagers. Some studies show that teens spend close to nine hours a day online, ranging from being on the phone, watching TV or playing video games. Approximately three-quarters of teens own a smartphone and half of them feel addicted to using their phones. Fortunately, there are proactive ways for parents to tackle this issue including establishing screen time limits for their teens.

Since many students have been doing online school, they have more time to scroll aimlessly through social media and spend hours on their phones. Some parents are working from home while others are working in the office, so their attention is not often geared toward their teens’ screen time. Free time among teenagers can often breed unhealthy habits if gone unchecked.

Neuropsychologist at Children’s of Alabama, Dr. Dan Marullo, offers insights on teens partaking in too much screen time. “Too much screen time in teens can lead to comparison to others and belief that their life is not as good as the people they follow,” Marullo said.

The false ideal of perfection on social media contributes to low self-esteem and eventually could develop into mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, if not addressed.

Too much screen time in teens interferes with physical activity, homework, sleep, social activities with friends and time spent with family. It also can lead to attention problems, a higher incidence of depression, anxiety and exposure to unsafe content and contacts. Screen time can lead to obesity due to increased sedentary activity, mindless eating and interference with normal sleeping patterns. Lack of sleep contributes to problems with mood, attention and learning.

Some phone activities can be productive, including researching for a school project, engaging in creative outlets or interacting with friends on online platforms. However, many activities are unproductive or harmful for teens, including visiting unsafe websites, playing violent video games, watching inappropriate TV shows, sexting and engaging with strangers who pose a threat online. Cyberbullying, which is using the internet, cell phone or other technology to send texts or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person, can be an outcome of too much screen time as well.

Dr. Marullo suggests monitoring and limiting your teen’s screen time to no more than a couple hours per day outside of schoolwork. 

Parents should remember these tips when forming a healthy screen time habit for their teens:

  • Monitor social media sites, apps and browsing history.
  • Research video and computer games before letting your teen get them. Preview games with your teen to see what they are like.
  • Review or reset the phone location and privacy settings.
  • Follow or friend your teen on social media sites or get a trusted adult friend to do so.
  • Ensure your teen has a wide range of free-time activities (spending time with friends, playing sports, volunteer work, being involved in school clubs, etc.). Less free time can lead to less time spent on screens!
  • Turn off all screens during family meals and when your teen goes to bed. Keep devices with screens out of your teen’s room after bedtime.
  • Know your teen’s usernames and passwords.
  • Consider screen time a special privilege that teens need to earn, not a right to which they are entitled.
  • Stay up to date on the latest apps, social media platforms and digital slang.
  • Use screening tools for phones, TV, tablets and computers to limit access to certain content.
  • Teach your teen about internet and social media safety, ensuring they know the dangers of sharing private information online or sexting.
  • Teach positive, respectful digital behavior.
  • Keep the computer in a common area so you can monitor their online activity.
Children's

Inclement Weather Updates 3/17/2021

We are monitoring today’s severe weather forecast. Any information about office closings will be posted here and http://www.childrensal.org/weather throughout the day.

March 17, 2:30 p.m.

Due to the potential for severe weather in the area, the following office locations will be closed for the remainder of the day.

  • Pell City Pediatrics
  • Greenvale Pediatrics (Hoover, Alabaster, Brook Highland)
  • Vestavia Pediatrics
  • Over the Mountain Pediatrics

Most locations will still have a physician on call for urgent medical needs. Please call your child’s pediatrician’s after hours number or answering service to be connected to a doctor.

If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. 

March 17, 2021 – 2 p.m. 

Due to the potential for severe weather in the area, the following office locations will be closed for the remainder of the day.

  • Pediatrics West, both locations
  • Midtown Pediatrics (patient families can call the answering service at 205-930-4151 to speak to the physician on call)

Health and Safety

Protecting Your Teen from Dating Violence

One in 10 teenagers will experience some sort of abuse by a dating partner, according to the Children’s Safety Network. Negative short-term or long-term health issues can result from abusive relationships. Parents should be cognizant of potential warning signs in their teenage kids’ relationships to help prevent abuse.

Dating violence manifests in many different forms, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Emotional abuse can be hard to recognize because it typically progresses gradually throughout the relationship. Emotional abuse can include intimidation, manipulation, intense jealousy, threats, controlling behavior, verbal assault and gaslighting. Gaslighting is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “presenting false information to the victim with the intent of making them doubt their own memory and perception.” Physical abuse is any means of physical harm, including hitting, kicking or punching. Sexual abuse involves forcing a partner to engage in any type of sexual experience without consent.

The director of the Children’s Hospital Intervention and Prevention Services (CHIPS Center) at Children’s of Alabama, Debra Schneider, is an expert on teen dating violence (TDV). “If the perpetrator is more interested in controlling you,” Schneider said, “then that is a big red flag.”

The victim in an abusive relationship is likely to experience adverse health issues during the relationship or develop health issues later on from the traumatic experience. If the relationship is physically violent, long-term injuries or even death could result. Teens in an abusive relationship have an increased risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, antisocial behaviors, eating disorders, negative body image, sexually transmitted diseases, trust issues, emotional triggers, lying, stealing, cheating and lack of discernment when picking appropriate partners in adulthood. 

In order to protect their children from teen dating violence, parents should know what to be aware of when their child is in a relationship.

Warning signs parents should be mindful of:

  • Secrecy or withdrawal from friends and family
  • Onset of anxiety and/or depression
  • Physical findings (bruises, cuts, headaches, back pain)
  • Only spending time with partner
  • Feeling excessive guilt or shame
  • Avoidance of school or social events with excuses that don’t seem to make any sense

Schneider wants parents to know how they can reduce the occurrence of TDV and protect their teens.

“Open dialogue about physical and emotional boundaries in relationships should begin when children are young,” Schneider said. “Boundaries and respect are vital to pave the way toward healthy relationships in their teenage years. If parents are modeling a healthy relationship, that’s going to be what teens are used to and what they expect in their own relationships.”

If you observe any warning signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship in your teen, talk to them about it. It is important to start a conversation with your child/teen and listen to them. Try to understand and validate their feelings in this situation. Your show of support will increase their trust and your teen will be more comfortable sharing information with you. This open conversation will be crucial in educating your teen about what should be expected in a healthy and safe relationship.  A teen who is being abused needs someone to hear and believe them and be reminded that abuse is never deserved.

Resources you or your teen can call if they are in an abusive relationship:

  • National Dating Abuse Helpline – call 1-866-331-9474 or log on to interactive website loveisrespect.org to receive immediate, confidential assistance
  • Birmingham Crisis Center – call 205-323-7777
  • Birmingham Rape Response – call 205-323-7273
  • CHIPS Center (Children’s Hospital Intervention and Prevention Services) – call 205-638-2751
  • RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) – call 1-800-656-4673
  • If your teen is in immediate danger, call 911