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Children's

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.

Children's, Health and Safety

Brain Tumor Awareness Month

More than 3,000 children across the country are diagnosed each year with central nervous system tumors.  When brain cells grow abnormally or out of control, a tumor can form. If the tumor puts pressure on certain areas of the brain, it can affect how the body functions. 

Although there are many different types of brain tumors, doctors don’t know what causes them. Researchers believe that genetics and the environment may play a role. Doctors categorize a tumor based on its location, the type of cells involved and how quickly it grows. Some are cancerous while others are not.

The Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Program at Children’s of Alabama is the only program of its kind in the state and treats more than 300 children diagnosed with brain tumors. It is one of the largest programs in the Southeast.

When discovered early enough, brain tumors are usually treatable. Dr. Elizabeth Alva, assistant professor of pediatrics, said that there are different types of options depending on the kind of tumor.

Treatment requires a multidisciplinary approach and the appropriate treatment varies by the type of brain tumor,” she said. “Through our multidisciplinary team, we are able to provide the best care available to patients with brain tumors.”

Many slow-growing tumors are cured with surgery alone. Faster-growing tumors might need additional treatment with radiation therapy, chemotherapy or both.

One of the most exciting treatments currently happening at Children’s is the oncolytic virotherapy trial using herpes simplex virus. This approach is only available at Children’s and is evidence of Children’s commitment to providing more treatment opportunities for patients with difficult to treat recurrent or progressive brain tumors.

Signs and Symptoms

A brain tumor can cause symptoms by directly pressing on the surrounding parts of the brain that control certain body functions or by causing a buildup of spinal fluid and pressure throughout the brain. Signs or symptoms vary depending on a child’s age and the location of the tumor. They include:

  • vomiting
  • seizures
  • weakness of the face, trunk, arms or legs
  • slurred speech
  • difficulty standing or walking
  • poor coordination
  • headache
  • in babies and young toddlers, a rapidly enlarging head

 

Because symptoms might develop gradually and can be like those of other common childhood illnesses, brain tumors can be difficult to diagnose. If there are ever concerns about symptoms a child is having, a physician should be contacted right away.

For more information, visit childrensal.org/neuro-oncology.

Children’s of Alabama is a member of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) that provides patients the opportunity to participate in the latest clinical trials and advanced care for pediatric brain tumors.  In addition, they are one of only 21 COG sites designated as a Phase 1 institution, which offers patients with brain tumors and other cancers with the newest therapies not available at other institutions and help further advance the knowledge of new treatments. Children’s clinical trials are open through the National Experimental Therapeutics (NEXT) Consortium, including the newest Head Start 4 protocol, which aims to improve the cure rates and quality of survival with young patients diagnosed with medulloblastoma and primitive neuro-ectodermal tumors.  

Children's, Development, Health and Safety

Scoliosis

Scoliosis is an abnormal side to side curvature of the spine. Instead of a straight line, it may form more of an “S” shape or “C” shape.  Scoliosis usually occurs during the growth spurt just before puberty.

Angela Doctor is a registered nurse and the Scoliosis Screening Coordinator for Children’s of Alabama.  In 1984, the state of Alabama mandated that all public school students between the ages of 11 and 14 be screened for scoliosis. “The importance of scoliosis screening is early detection,” Doctor says. “Children are doing a lot of growing during the adolescent period, so our goal is to halt the progression of scoliosis.”

Types of Scoliosis

Doctor says there are three types of scoliosis. The most common is adolescent idiopathic, in which case the cause is unknown.  But scoliosis can congenital, caused by a defect at birth, or due to a neuromuscular disease like cerebral palsy.

Treatment

For most children, scoliosis is not a problem. Some may require ongoing monitoring.  But a curve that gets worse can be bad for a child’s health. If an orthopedic specialist determines treatment is necessary, the options include a back brace to halt the deformity, or spinal surgery.

Possible Signs

Parents may wonder if their child has scoliosis. Doctor says signs to look for include:

-Uneven shoulders

-Uneven scapulas

-Uneven waist and hips

-One side of the back higher than the other when bending forward

If a parent suspects their child may have scoliosis, they should see their pediatrician.  He or she may refer the child to an orthopedic specialist to confirm a diagnosis and decide whether treatment is necessary.

It’s crucial to identify scoliosis early while the spine is still growing. When treatment is over, people with scoliosis are able to live full and active lives.

Children's

Pediatric Dental Hygiene

Many parents have a tough time judging how much dental care their children need. They know they want to prevent cavities, but they don’t always know the best way to do so. Here are some tips and guidelines.

When Should Kids Start Brushing Their Teeth?

Good dental care begins before a baby’s first tooth appears. Just because you can’t see the teeth doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Teeth actually begin to form in the second trimester of pregnancy. At birth, your baby has 20 primary teeth, some of which are fully developed in the jaw.

Here’s when and how to care for your child’s teeth:

  • Before your baby starts teething, run a clean, damp washcloth over the gums to clear away harmful bacteria.
  • Once your baby gets teeth, brush them with an infant toothbrush. Use water and a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice). Use fluoride toothpaste that carries the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of acceptance. (If you are using baby toothpaste without the fluoride, keep it to the same amount because you still want to minimize any toothpaste that is swallowed.)
  • Once your baby’s teeth touch, you can begin flossing in between them.
  • Around age 2, your child should learn to spit while brushing. Avoid giving your child water to swish and spit because this might make swallowing toothpaste more likely.
  • Kids ages 3 and up should use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Always supervise kids younger than 6 while brushing, as they are more likely to swallow toothpaste.

Even babies can develop tooth decay if good feeding habits aren’t practiced. Putting a baby to sleep with a bottle might be convenient, but can harm the baby’s teeth. When the sugars from juice or milk remain on a baby’s teeth for hours, they can eat away at the enamel, creating a condition known as bottle mouth. Pocked, pitted, or discolored front teeth are signs of bottle mouth. Kids with severe cases might develop cavities and need all of their front teeth pulled (permanent teeth will grow in later).

When Should Kids See a Dentist?

The ADA recommends that children see a dentist by their first birthday. At this first visit, the dentist will explain proper brushing and flossing techniques and do a modified exam while your baby sits on your lap.

These visits can help find problems early and help kids get used to visiting the dentist so they’ll have less fear about going as they get older. Consider taking your child to a dentist who specializes in treating kids. Pediatric dentists are trained to handle the wide range of issues associated with kids’ dental health. They also know when to refer you to a different type of specialist, such as an orthodontist to correct an overbite or an oral surgeon for jaw realignment.

If a child seems to be at risk for cavities or other problems, the dentist may start applying topical fluoride even before all teeth come in (this also can be done in the pediatrician’s office). Fluoride hardens the tooth enamel, helping to ward off the most common childhood oral disease — dental cavities (also called dental caries).

How Can We Prevent Cavities?

Cavities happen when bacteria and food left on the teeth after eating are not brushed away. Acid collects on a tooth, softening its enamel until a hole — or cavity — forms.

Here’s how to keep cavities away:

  • Start good oral habits early. Teach kids to brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and to floss regularly.
  • Get enough fluoride. Regular use of fluoride toughens the enamel, making it harder for acid to penetrate. Although many towns require tap water to be fluoridated, others don’t. If your water supply is not fluoridated or if your family uses purified water, ask your dentist for fluoride supplements. Most toothpastes contain fluoride but toothpaste alone will not fully protect a child’s teeth. Be careful, however, since too much fluoride can cause tooth discoloration. Check with your dentist before supplementing.
  • Limit or avoid certain foods. Sugary foods, juices, candy (especially sticky gummy candy, gummy vitamins, or fruit leather or “roll-ups”) can erode enamel and cause cavities. If your kids eat these foods, have them rinse their mouth or brush their teeth after eating to wash away the sugar. The same goes for taking sweetened liquid medicines: always have kids rinse or brush afterward.

Looking Ahead

As children grow, plan on routine dental checkups anywhere from once every 3 months to once a year, depending on your dentist’s recommendations. Keeping sugary foods in check, encouraging regular brushing and flossing, and working with your dentist will lead to good dental health.

Children's

Spring Break and Summer Safety

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As the weather warms and wool socks are traded in for flip flops, here are a few seasonal safety tips that will ensure that your family-fun outing stays just that.

Sun Exposure

Whether it’s an afternoon at the beach, out on the river or a picnic in the park, protecting your child’s skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays is always important. Severe sunburns can increase a child’s risk for future skin cancer. Follow these guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent dangerous sun exposure:

  • Apply sunscreen that provides at least SPF 15 and UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection 30 minutes before you plan on being outdoors. Follow the directions for reapplying on the sunscreen bottle. Be sure to check the expiration date on your sunscreen.
  • Protect exposed skin by wearing long pants or shirts if possible. Dry and dark colored clothing offer the most protection from harmful rays.
  • Hats can offer protection for sensitive areas like the neck, ears, scalp and face. Baseball caps provide limited shade, so be sure to apply sunscreen to exposed areas.
  • It is also important to protect your child’s eyes to prevent future issues. Select sunglasses that provide as much UVA and UVB protection as possible.
  • Seek shade or go indoors at midday when harmful rays are more direct to the earth.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/sun-safety.htm

Lightning

Lightening strikes occur most often during summer months. According to the National Weather Service, over 60 lightning-related deaths occur each year in the United States. This is why the organization stands by the the motto: “If thunder roars, go indoors.”

  • At the first roll of thunder, seek shelter. The safest place to be during a thunderstorm is in a completely enclosed building, not in a pavillion or patio.
  • If shelter is not available, the second safest place to be during a thunderstorm is in an enclosed, hard-topped, metal car.
  • There is nothing worse than having a family pool day ruined by an unexpected storm, but if you can hear thunder, you are within lightning range. Never allow your children to remain in or near a body of water during a thunderstorm. Seek shelter immediately.
  • Stay away from tall, isolated objects like trees and cell phone towers.
  • Lying flat on the ground does not actually protect you from being struck. In fact, it can put you at a greater risk. Continue to seek shelter.
  • Avoid metal objects and surfaces.

Source: http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/tips.shtml

Water Safety

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Swimming is among the most popular of summer activities, but without taking the proper safety precautions, it can also be one of the most dangerous. The American Red Cross recommends the following to keep your family safe while out on the water:

  • Enroll your child in age-appropriate swim lessons. It is important that every one in your family knows how to swim well and know how to respond to potential water-related emergencies.
  • Enforce the buddy-system when it comes to swimming, even if there is a lifeguard on duty. Regardless of how skilled of a swimmer thinks he or she is, no child should ever swim alone or unsupervised. Never leave your child under the supervision of another child.
  • Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water.
  • Do not allow your child to play around drains in pools or spas.
  • Install proper barriers to prevent unsupervised access to home pools.
  • Teach your child to follow instructions from lifeguards.
  • Do not dive or jump into water without knowing how deep it is or what current water conditions are like.
  • Follow posted rules, regulations and warnings at pools, water parks and beaches.
  • Pay attention to the color-coded warning flags on the beach and instruct your children to follow the warnings. (Refer to “Beach Warning Flags.”)
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from structures like jetties and piers where rip currents are more likely to develop.
  • Ensure that members of your family are aware of how to respond if they or someone else were to get caught in a rip current. (Refer to the “Rip Currents: Break the Grip of the Rip!”)

 

Beach Warning FlagsRip Currents

Sources: http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety/beach-safety

 

http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety

Children's

Tics and Tourette Syndrome

Tics and Tourette syndrome are neurobehavioral disorders that may begin in childhood or adolescence. A tic disorder affects a person’s central nervous system and causes uncontrollable, repetitive movements or sounds. It can be like an itch you don’t want to scratch, but can’t help it.

New Research for Tics and Tourette Syndrome

Previously, psychologists and psychiatrists primarily treated tics and Tourette syndrome through pharmaceuticals. However, new research has shown that through the work of occupational therapists and neurologists, behavioral modification and habit reversal therapies are highly effective in treating tics.

Jan Rowe leads the Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Treating Tics and Tourette Syndrome program at Children’s of Alabama, also known as CBIT. It’s one of 10 locations in the country designated as a Center of Excellence for treating tics and Tourette syndrome. This non-pharmaceutical, behavioral program usually consists of eight sessions.

“We basically teach the children strategies to use when they feel the tic coming on or when they’re ticking,” Rowe said. “We call it ‘competing response,’ and when they use that competing response, it makes the tic impossible to happen. That interrupts the tic’s cycle, the tic stops and then they no longer have to use that strategy.”

CBIT at Children’s of Alabama treats children from across the nation for tics and Tourette syndrome with a 90 percent success rate.

Diagnosing Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorders

Rowe says Tourette syndrome is a type of tic disorder. It’s diagnosed when a child has at least one vocal tic and two motor tics that have lasted longer than a year. If a child is younger than 18 years old and has only one tic, whether it’s motor or vocal, then the diagnosis is a tic disorder.

Tourette Syndrome

  • At least one vocal tic
  • Two or more motor tics
  • Lasting one year or longer

Tic Disorder

  • One motor or vocal tic
  • Under the age of 18 years old

Rowe said while tics and Tourette syndrome are neurologically based, stress is a significant contributing factor.

“Stress is a huge trigger for tics,” Rowe said. “That’s good stress or bad stress. It could be caused by a child looking forward to Christmas or spring break, or it can be seen in a child who is worrying about a math test.”

Rowe advises parents that if their child becomes aware and bothered by signs of a tic disorder or Tourette syndrome to contact CBIT at Children’s of Alabama at 205-638-6820. For more information, visit www.ChildrensAL.org/CBIT.

Children's

AAP Provides New Guidelines for Fruit Juice Portions

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released their new recommendations for children’s fruit juice consumption. The AAP warns that fruit juice can become a problem because it is easily over-consumed by young children who enjoy the taste, and parents usually do not set limits because juice is often viewed as nutritious. Rainie Carter, a clinical nutritionist at Children’s of Alabama, says, “For years, families viewed juice as a healthy way to provide their child with more vitamins and minerals. The reality is that, when the fiber is stripped from the fruit to create juice, we are left with a product that similar to a sugary soda. The body’s blood sugar response mimics that of a soda, and there can be consequences if the product is consumed too often.” Recent research associates excessive juice consumption with intestinal gas, tooth decay, and unhealthy weight gain. “In clinical practice, I have seen both ends of the spectrum — excessive weight gain and inadequate weight gain. When children over consume juice, they gain from the unneeded calories or they have very little appetite for solid, nutritious foods,” Carter states.

The first update since 2001, these guidelines encourage parents to limit the juice servings for children over 1 year of age and to avoid giving juice to infants under 1 year of age.

Infants (under 1 year of age) 

The new guidelines indicate that fruit juice should not be given to children under 1 year of age (unless recommended by the child’s pediatrician) as “no additional nutrients are needed” to supplement human milk or prepared infant formula. The AAP advises against giving juice before introducing solid foods to the child’s diet to ensure that the child receives all necessary nutrients from milk or formula that cannot be replaced by juice.

Children (over 1 year of age)

The AAP also advises parents to reduce amount of 100% fruit juice given to older children. The portion sizes should be restricted to 4 ounces for children ages 1-3 years, 4-6 ounces for children ages 4-6 years and 8 ounces for those 7 and older. It is also important to avoid giving juice in a bottle or portable covered cup, opting instead for an open cup to reduce the amount of time teeth are exposed to the carbohydrate in juice products, which can lead to dental decay.

The importance of providing fresh, whole fruit to children is also emphasized, reminding parents that it is recommended to provide 2 to 2 ½ cups of fruit servings per day. Of this, no more than 1 cup should be replaced by 100% fruit juice. The AAP also warns that replacing the recommended fruit intake with juice does not promote the establishment of healthy eating behaviors. “Establishing healthier eating behaviors early on in life means healthier eating later in life as well. If children are given a variety of foods on a consistent basis, they will typically become less prone to picky eating,” Carter adds.

Infants can consume mashed or pureed fruit such as applesauce or fruit-based baby foods. Older children need the protein and fiber contained in whole fruits to maintain good colon health. Parents should encourage children to consume whole fruit and depend on water as the primary source of hydration. “Fiber helps to slow digestion and keep a person feeling fuller longer so whole fruit is a better choice than juice in many ways. Updating the consumption guidelines to include more fiber-rich fruits and less juice will help consumers make more well-informed decisions about their health,” Carter notes.

Source: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/139/6/e20170967

Children's, Development

Hearing and Speech Milestones

From the moment a baby is born, he or she is learning. That’s why it’s important for parents to be aware of and watch for important developmental milestones from birth the age 3. Jill Smith is the director of the Hearing and Speech Center at Children’s of Alabama. She said engaging in simple activities like talking to your baby while changing a diaper actually helps them learn to communicate. Smith said even the routine task of feeding your baby lays a foundation for speech.

 

“Those same muscles they are using to suck on the bottle are the same muscles they will use when learning to talk,” Smith said.
Crying is a form of communication for several months of a baby’s development. Babies cry to let parents know when they need something or when they are overwhelmed or tired. They can also engage in two-way “conversations,” exchanging smiles and cooing with mom or dad.
During this important developmental stage, Smith recommends parents consistently talk to their child. This may include reading to them, engaging in “conversations” with them and pointing out objects or animals when at the park or around the home.
“You can be saying, ‘Oh! There’s a bird,’ or ‘Look at our friend, the dog,’ and even though they may just be laying back in their stroller, they’re taking it all in, listening and learning,” Smith said.
Babies should begin reaching basic speech and hearing milestones as they grow:

3 Months Old

  • Smiling (responding to parent)
  • Cooing, babbling with parent

6 Months Old

  • Should understand “No”
  • Recognizes his or her name
  • Recognizes when a parent is in the room

1 Year Old

  • Should be speaking basic words like “No,” “Dada” and “Mama”

18 Months Old

  • Should be able to speak 30-50 words

2 Years Old

  • Should be able to string words together like “I don’t want,” “My ball,” and “Go outside”
  • Should have a vocabulary of 200-300 words

Children communicate at different rates just as they mature physically at different rates, but Smith said if a child is not using any words by 18 months old, parents should consult a pediatrician and request a speech evaluation.

Early speech and language skills are associated with success in reading, writing and social skills later in life. By engaging in “baby talk” with your baby, you help build a foundation for his or her future.

Children's, Health and Safety

Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse

It’s estimated that 1 million children are abused every year. Many abuse victims suffer from sexual abuse. Deb Schneider is the executive director of the Children’s Hospital Intervention and Prevention Services (CHIPS) Center at Children’s of Alabama. She says even though it’s a difficult subject, it’s important parents teach children that their bodies are “private property.”

“Parents should be having an ongoing conversation with their kids. This is not a one-time thing,” Schneider says. “It’s good to look for teachable moments, like when you see a private property sign, or during bath time, or when you see an Amber Alert.”
Schneider says often when people try to entice children, they trick them with what she calls bait. “They use things like toys, candy or money,” she says. “They also will try to keep them from telling about the abuse. They may threaten to harm them or someone they love if they tell.”

She advises parents to educate children to understand what “bait” may look like and how to seek help if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation.
Children should understand the “I Can Plan.”
Teach Children the “I Can Plan:”
  • Try to say NO
  • Try to Get Away
  • Tell Someone
  • It’s Not Your Fault
If a child reports a suspected incident of sexual abuse, Schneider advises parents to stay calm, thank the child for telling, assure the child you will get help and contact the authorities, whether it’s the local police or Department of Human Resources.
Schneider says hard as it may seem to stay calm, it’s very important to not frighten the child and not ask too many questions so the child will continue to share when asked by authorities. Authorities are trained to conduct interviews with children to help prosecute an abuser.
The CHIPS Center has abuse prevention resources available. For more information, 205- 638-2751 or go to childrensal.org/CHIPS.
Children's, Health and Safety

Seasonal Flu

This flu season has caused a major influx of patients at medical facilities across the state of Alabama. Birmingham-area hospitals are reaching or already over capacity in response to the recent outbreak of the illness.

Jefferson County Health Department Officer Dr. Mark Wilson addressed the increase in local flu cases during a press conference on Jan. 10.  Wilson said that while the outbreak is not severe enough to be considered a pandemic, it is a significant “seasonal flu situation.”

Delphene Hobby-Noland,  Manager of Infection Prevention and Control at Children’s of Alabama, said that the answer to avoiding the flu is as simple as taking basic precautionary steps.

“The two biggest preventative measures you can take are to get your annual flu immunization and to wash your hands,” Hobby-Noland said. “Our hands are the primary way that we transmit germs.”

Hobby-Noland said that those most susceptible to the flu are children and the elderly because their immune systems tend to be weaker. Children under the age of  5, especially those younger than  2 years old, are particularly more likely to suffer from flu-related complications. These complications include pneumonia, dehydration, worsening of long-term medical problems like heart disease or asthma, swelling in the brain, sinus problems and ear infections. Children younger than  6 months cannot receive the flu shot, meaning that it is important for everyone who is of age to be immunized, especially caregivers and parents of young children. There is still time to get the flu shot. While the shot does not cover all strains of the flu, it can shorten or cause the case to be less severe even if someone does get the illness.

Other preventative measures involve disinfecting commonly used surfaces, as well as encouraging children to cover their mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and to avoid touching their faces.

The Jefferson County Health Department encourages people experiencing milder flu-like symptoms to stay at home or call their personal doctor instead of going to the hospital. This helps to prevent further overcrowding, risking exposure to more serious illnesses and spreading the flu.

Common symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish with chills, though not all people with the flu will have a fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea, which are more common in children

For more information, visit https://www.childrensal.org/.