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Children’s of Alabama Celebrates Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month. At Children’s of Alabama, 86 percent of our workforce is female.

Children’s of Alabama is here today because, more than a century ago, a group of dedicated women saw the growing need for quality health care for children. In those early days at Children’s, an all-female group of volunteers did whatever was needed to operate the charity hospital, from scrubbing floors to sitting with sick children. The hospital’s first trustees were all women.

Today, women are involved throughout our hospital – from the board room to bedside. The women featured here all have very different roles at Children’s, but all are key to fulfilling the promise of the hospital’s original founders.


LaDonna Gaines
Manager, Alabama Poison Information Center

What led you to a career in healthcare?
I always wanted to be a nurse, even as a child. I wanted to help people. I did a clinical rotation at Children’s when I was in nursing school, so I knew it was a great organization and I was glad to come here when the opportunity arose.

Who are some women who have impacted your life?
My mother has definitely impacted my life. She is a very hardworking woman and can always figure out how to handle difficult situations. Ann Slattery, my director, has also greatly impacted my life. She’s a great leader and has always been so encouraging.

What message do you have for women trying to make their mark on the world?
Always be yourself. You don’t have to fit a specific mold to make change in the world. The world needs YOU, just as you are. Do what you love and enjoy. Be of service to others.


Lou Lacey
Director, Emotional Wellness

What led you to a career at Children’s?
I always had a sense I would end up at Children’s. I wanted to be involved in the mission and the history of this amazing place. I wanted to be connected to others who were invested in making the world a better place for our children.

Who are some women who have impacted your life?
I’ve had too many women mentors to count but my grandmother was my guiding light. She grew up poor in rural Alabama but pushed herself beyond that to get her college degree in a time when that was highly unusual. She went on to start a school for children where differences were celebrated and those who were vulnerable were protected.

What message do you have for women trying to make their mark on the world?
Don’t become a reduced version of yourself in order to fit into the mold of the expected. Have the courage to be thoroughly yourself and do it all with great love.


Kadambari Naik
Coordinator, Lab Education

What led you to a career at Children’s?
After graduation, I started working for a reference laboratory. Someone I knew from school highly recommended Children’s of Alabama. I accepted a position here as a Medical Technologist in 2008 and haven’t looked back since then. I find my work satisfying and enjoy working with my team. There is never a dull day!

Who are some women who have impacted your life?
My grandmother and my mom have always been the two women I’ve looked up to.

After my grandfather passed away, my grandmother took over our family’s farm and single-handedly managed it well for several years. She was very hard-working, energetic and always had a plan when things at the farm did not go well, whether it was broken equipment or staffing problems. She always told us that if you work hard good things will happen; and if they don’t, then at least you know you gave your 100 percent.

My mom has always been here for me! She is a great cook and taught me to cook at a very early age. After all these years, I realized that while teaching me to cook, she was actually giving me important life lessons…organization, patience, multi-tasking, maximizing resources and persistence.

What message do you have for girls trying to make their mark on the world?
I would tell them what I always tell my daughter. The one person who can help you is YOU! Always advocate for yourself, be your own voice.

Do not shy away from challenges whether it is at school, work or in your personal life. Focus on the big picture, don’t let minor setbacks hold you back, and remember it is never too late to follow your dreams!


Sherry Scarborough
Director, Volunteer Services

What led you to a career at Children’s?
I joined the staff at Children’s Hospital in 1978 as an executive secretary. I transferred from Baptist Medical Centers with my then boss, Jim Reed. Once at Children’s I knew I had found my career track of serving children and families. I loved the mission then. I love the mission now.

Who are some women who have impacted your life?
My Mother was an at home Mom who raised five children and then became a professional floral designer in her late 40s. Mama taught us to work hard, believe in ourselves, look for the good in others, and “if you don’t have something nice to say, just keep it to yourself.”

I always admired Surpora Thomas, a previous VP of nursing (at Children’s). Mrs. Thomas was a strong leader with concern for young women at Children’s. She set the standards high for her nursing staff as well as the rest of us.

I always have admired Mother Teresa! Her selflessness and love of others is an inspiration.

What message do you have for women trying to make their mark on the world?
Young girls should first learn to respect themselves and then others. Live by the golden rule. My advice to young women is to learn to live on their own without the help or assistance from parents or others before stepping into marriage or any other committed relationship. Then they will always know they can be independent and strong.


Val Slater
Nurse Clinician, Clinic 8

What led you to a career in healthcare at Children’s?
Since I was 7 years old, I always wanted to become a nurse, and that desired dream never changed. I just had a love for caring for people. What led me to Children’s in 1990 was after my Pediatric rotation on 4West. The nurses there were so loving and passionate toward the kids, and I have such a big heart for children. Prior to my rotation, I had put in applications at Children’s but never got a call back. On my last day of my rotation, I mentioned to Mrs. Johnson (one the nurses) that I had put in applications but never got a response, and I really want to work at Children’s. She took my name and phone number and told me that she would give it to her director (Bonnie Barnett). The next day I received a call from Mrs. Barnett, had my interview and was hired the very next day. That is God putting the right people in my space, and I knew then this is where the Lord wanted me to be and still going strong 32 years later.

Who are some women who have impacted your life?
The first woman who had the most impact in my life would be my mom, Bettie Montgomery. No matter how hard nursing school got for me, she was always in my corner being my cheerleader and pushing me forward. There was one quote that she would say that always stuck with me: “Good, better, best, never, ever rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.” This is one quote that I still use today. Other women who had an impact on my life, I call them my “hospital moms.” Their names are Mrs. Wilma Kenon (Griffin), Mrs. Mary Jones, Mrs. Sheryl Tyus, Mrs. Helen Wren and Mrs. Ruby Moncrief. These ladies took me under their wings, nourished my passion for nursing and developed me in the individual I am today. Last is my weekend mentor, Michell Gresham. She really taught me everything about critical care bedside nursing. I will truly be grateful and thankful for these ladies being in my life.

What message do you have for girls/women trying to make their mark on the world?
The message that I would give to girls/women is to never, never give up on your dream. No matter how hard things might appear, continue to keep pushing forward no matter what. If God has planted a passion in your heart, just know that He will give you the tools you need to fulfill it, but you have to be committed to the dream. Two of my favorite poems that PUSH me FORWARD and I still recite today are “Don’t Quit” and “Our Deepest Fear.” Remember if you can Dream IT, you can Believe IT, you can Achieve IT.


Myra Waddell
Staff Nurse, Critical Care Transport

What led you to a career in healthcare?
I always enjoyed helping people even as a young kid. A childhood accident eventually led me to the medical field. Working with kids interested me as got older after my experiences with hospitals and medical staff.

Who are some women who have impacted your life?
At the risk of sounding super cliché, my mother, grandmother and sister have been the most influential women in my life. They are not famous, but they are my superstars! All three have taught me unconditional love and compassion, the value of hard work and to never give up regardless of the difficulty of the task. They are three of the strongest women I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I am grateful for them.

What message do you have for women trying to make their mark on the world?
Let your light shine as bright as possible. You define yourself. Do not let anyone else define you or put you in a corner. There will be failures along your way. Learn from those failures and come back stronger. Never give up!

Children's

Children’s of Alabama Celebrates Black History Month

February is Black History Month, a time to honor the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans. At Children’s of Alabama, we are united in our mission and dedication in providing the finest pediatric healthcare to all children. Each of the employees featured here contribute to our core values of trust, teamwork, compassion, innovation and commitment. We thank them for sharing their stories of inspiration and impact.


Dexter Cunningham
Security Manager

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama? 
The opportunity to work in an organization whose primary mission is the care and comfort of sick children piqued my interest. Having spent almost 30 years in law enforcement (University of Alabama at Birmingham Police Department, retired Birmingham Police sergeant), being the security manager here at Children’s of Alabama has been a great fit.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
Colin Powell has inspired me as I am a retired veteran as well. I served 21.5 years in the United States Naval Reserve. The opportunity to work with the present Children’s Security Director Michael McCall has been an inspiration also.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
I hope that others would not dwell on the adversities, but see those situations as possibilities and opportunities to grow and excel. To believe in yourself and never give up on your dreams, but to put written plans to those dreams is what I hope to inspire.


Reggie Hope
Practice Manager, Pediatrics East

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?
After retiring from the military and moving back to Alabama, it was divine guidance that directed me to my new mission of compassion, commitment, teamwork, trust and innovation at Children’s of Alabama.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
My initial source of inspiration can be found in the wise, loving words of my mother, Dollie Mae Hope. Her encouraging words empowered me to grow and fully realize my potential. In addition to my mom, Charles Richard Drew, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama are among countless African Americans that continue to inspire me.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
Through my words and actions, I hope to empower and inspire others to raise the bar of excellence in their professional and or personal life.


Delicia Mason MNHSA, RN, NEA-BC
Vice President, Nursing Operations

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?
My family relocated to Birmingham from Montgomery in 1998. I worked as a pediatric medical surgical nurse at a hospital in Montgomery, and I wanted to continue working in pediatrics, so I applied to work in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Children’s of Alabama. At that time, there was a hiring freeze for nursing positions in the PICU. I called the director of the PICU every month, sometimes twice monthly, inquiring about a position. Five months later, after the hiring freeze ended, she called and offered me a nightshift position.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
My parents Jessie and Bernice Posey are lifetime supporters who taught me and my siblings that this world and the people in it owe you nothing. Work hard to earn what you deserve. Be committed to your undertakings and be unshakeable in honoring your commitments.

Delois Spencer is a dear friend, mentor and coach. She is a nurse leader who helped to shape me into the leader I am. 

I admire Maya Angelou for her spirit, intelligence and peaceful presence. I am inspired by Cicely Tyson for her strong will, achievements and success despite tremendous social and political barriers rooted on her path. Michelle Obama is a role model of a mother, wife and leader. I admire her poised strength and energy that enables her to endure the tough talk aimed at her and still give positive messages that inspire others.

How do you hope to inspire others?
I hope to inspire others by:

  • Role modeling the behaviors expected of others
  • Being optimistic and keeping a positive outlook
  • Empowering others – building others to be their best professionally and personally
  • Keeping a level head – remaining composed even when under pressure
  • Being consistent in who I am – not sacrificing my integrity or character
  • Being an active listener – my silence can be powerful for others


Dorothy McKinney
Customer Support & Provisioning Manager

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?
I relocated to Birmingham from Georgia where I was employed at a local hospital. My experience in healthcare and taking pride in providing top-notch customer service/patient care is what I wanted to bring to Children’s of Alabama. I applied for a job with the Customer Support Desk and thankfully was hired. Fifteen years later, I still thoroughly enjoy my job. Children’s of Alabama is an organization that values diversity and offers room for growth.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
I would have to say my maternal grandmother.  She was someone who instilled values in me that I hold dear today. She taught me to be kind, respectful and treat everyone I encounter the way I wish to be treated.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
I hope to have a positive impact. I try to show kindness, love, compassion and understanding toward everyone I encounter. I want to lead by example in every way.


Delphene Noland
Manager, Infection Prevention and Control

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?
My route to Children’s of Alabama was roundabout. When I first decided I was going to be a nurse, my goal was to be a pediatric nurse at Children’s. When I graduated, there were no openings so I was hired at another hospital. Then, 26 years later I was given the opportunity to join the infection control team, and after the interview, I knew this was the right move for me. I still believe it was the right decision.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
The African American who has inspired me most would have to be my Mother. Growing up, I watched her work as a maid at night and go to LPN (licensed practical nurse) school during the day. She was forced to work two jobs my entire life, and I knew her struggles as a single Black mother. There were many conversations about how there will be many people who will judge you by the color of your skin, but don’t let anyone tell you that you are less than. She was always very honest with us about her struggles with racism in healthcare. She would always tell us that she did not have the educational opportunities we had but she wanted all of us to do more, see more and achieve more.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
I would like people of color to know it is not where you start, but how you finish. Do not let society determine your future, and never let anyone dictate your worth. With each generation, we must strive to make change. I hope I exemplify what a poor little Black girl, who should have been a statistic, has accomplished in life.


Alexis Sankey, MS
Development Operations Coordinator

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama?
I love supporting nonprofits and foundations because they provide specialized needs for the most vulnerable in our community. However, the way Children’s of Alabama embodies its mission by addressing and prioritizing the needs of patients for our region was something that has always stood out to me.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
Professionally and artistically, I would have to say some notable African Americans I continue to be inspired by are Shirley Chisholm, Langston Hughes, Michelle Obama and Issa Rae.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
I hope to be able to show people unique ways to be of service to organizations as well as one another.


Dorothy Turner
Food Service Supervisor

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama? 
I came to Children’s by a way off Sherry Scarbrough, volunteer services director. I met her when I was working as a manager at Arby’s in Tarrant City, Ala. She would come by for coffee and a croissant every morning on her way to work at Children’s.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
I am inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., because of his simple acts of selflessness. He always thought of what was best for his community, no matter what the cost.  And he did it peacefully and freely.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
I hope to inspire others by being present for people, when I am needed and called on, no matter what the cost, in a very positive way. I always believe the greatest gift we can give each other as mankind is to be present for one another in a very genuine way.


Reggie Wilson
Information Technology CyberSecurity,
HIPAA Coordinator

What brought you to Children’s of Alabama? 
In 2002, Children’s was embarking on implementing a new EMR system, and I wanted to bring my IT skill sets and experience to contribute to the solution of that project.

What other African Americans have inspired you?
There are many, many, many, African Americans who have inspired me along my life and career journey. Some are internationally known and here locally in Birmingham.

What kind of impact do you hope to have? How do you hope to inspire others?
There are some things I keep in my heart to help me impact someone in a positive way, two of those I will share:

  • “Let my work speak for me.” I must always remember someone is watching me, so I must work hard and positive and hope that impacts their life.
  • “If I can help somebody, as I pass along, If I can cheer somebody, with a word or song, If I can show somebody, how they’re travelling wrong, Then my living shall not be in vain.” These lyrics from this Mahalia Jackson song stick with me and describe as how I would like to impact someone’s life with love and laughter.
Children's

Is Your Child’s School a Heart Safe School?

Did you know that thousands of school age children nationally die from sudden cardiac arrest every year? Only 5 to 10 percent of these children survive without some type of immediate treatment. This is why having automated external defibrillators (AED) available on school campuses can make the difference between life and death. It is simply a lightweight device that can help bring back a normal heart beat, and can increase the survival rate of cardiac victims by 50 percent.

All 13 Auburn City Schools now qualify as Project ADAM Heart-Safe Schools. Children’s of Alabama representatives John Stone and Adam Kelley presented ACS with the designation.

In an effort to ensure that schools are equipped and trained to use AEDs, Children’s of Alabama offers Alabama LifeStart, a program modeled after the Adam Project. Alabama is one of the many states that have adapted this program, which is currently led by co-medical directors Dr. Austin Kane and Dr. Khalisa Syeda of UAB. Because of Alabama LifeStart, Children’s of Alabama, and the financial support of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, approximately 400 schools in Alabama have received an AED device. Every public middle, junior and senior high school in the state is equipped with at least one AED. One of the many companies Children’s partners with to provide the equipment to schools is AED Brands. Like others, they offer information that can be helpful when purchasing an AED. 

In Alabama, AEDs on school campuses have helped save the lives of several students. One example of a lifesaving story is that of a student at John Sparkman High School in Morgan County who collapsed during a basketball game. Due to the quick response of trained school personnel, she was brought back to life with an AED.  

Unfortunately, not all faculty, staff and students know how to use the devices quickly in a sudden cardiac emergency. Most schools also do not provide more than one device, which may not be easily accessible where an incident may occur. With training resources readily available from Alabama LifeStart, more lives may be saved by improving the ability to respond quickly and effectively to a cardiac arrest. Those schools that meet special requirements are named a Heart Safe School by the program. They install the recommended number of AED devices on campus and utilize Alabama LifeStart’s free resources to incorporate the training into their student health or physical education curriculum. To date 62 Alabama schools have accomplished this honor.

If your school is interested in becoming a Heart Safe School by Alabama LifeStart, please email alabamalifestart@childrensal.org or call Program Director John Stone at Children’s at (205) 638-6769.  

Children's, Health and Safety

Safe Sleep

Statistics reveal 3,500 sleep-related deaths occur each year among infants under 12 months. Alabama has the highest rate of sleep-related deaths across the nation — approximately one hundred or more babies die each year due to unsafe sleep environments.

Dr. Erinn Schmit, a pediatric hospitalist at Children’s of Alabama and assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), says soft bedding and babies co-sleeping with a parent or sibling are two of the most common causes of sleep-related deaths. The highest risk for sleep-related deaths in infants is between 1 and 4 months old, but Dr. Schmit recommends parents keep exercising safe sleep practices up to 12 months.

Dr. Erinn Schmit

ABCs for Safe Sleep Practices

Dr. Schmit suggests using the “ABCs” of safe sleep to remember these practices. This stands for: Alone, Back and Crib.

Alone: Babies should be in their own sleep environment every single time. This means using an approved consumer product safety-rated device, like a crib, Pack ‘n Play or bassinet.

Back: Babies should be on their backs every single time.

Crib: The crib should be empty except for a crib mattress rated for infants (a firm mattress with just a fitted sheet). There should be no loose blankets, stuffed animals, pillows or bumpers –they pose a suffocation risk.

Safe Sleep Environments

“We know that co-sleeping greatly increases their risk for suffocation. We also see some deaths from suffocation due to soft bedding, such as pillows, blankets, sleeping on an adult mattress, or sleeping in a chair or couch. These environments are not meant for babies to sleep in,” Schmit said. “Babies should be sleeping on a firm sleep surface that doesn’t allow for any air pockets where their faces can get stuck.”

For every sleep session, babies should be placed on their back until they can roll over by themselves. Swaddling is helpful for newborns who have a startle reflex that wakes them up; however, parents should swaddle their baby only until they are about 3 to 4 months old, when they begin showing signs of rolling over.

“When they’re showing signs of rolling over, you could either go cold turkey — stop swaddling them altogether—or swaddle just one arm in at a time. But we do know that swaddling while babies are trying to roll can actually increase that risk of suffocation,” adds Dr. Schmit.

Dr. Schmit also cautions against nearby cords from a baby monitor or windows with blinds near the crib. Ensure the crib or Pack n’ Play is away from the window so babies can’t pull on strings connected to the blinds. In addition, make sure baby monitors are mounted on a wall or placed on a bookcase nearby, but not directly by the edge of a crib. “Unfortunately, every year we see strangulation deaths when babies get strings stuck around their necks,” Schmit said.

Sleep sacks are well known among parents with babies and are recommended.  These wearable blankets have a hole for the neck and arms, and either zip or snap in place. Due to the design, sleep sacks don’t have loose material that can get in a baby’s face. 

Sleep sacks for younger babies swaddle with Velcro and sleep sacks for older babies have arm holes and no swaddle. Around three to four months, parents should stop swaddling and switch to a sleep sack without a swaddle.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents share a room, not a bed, with their baby for up to 12 months. Sharing a room can help parents hear noises and be alert to their baby’s needs which can reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related deaths.

Tummy Time and Acid Reflux in Babies

Tummy time is when babies lay on their stomachs for a brief time period while they are awake and supervised. The AAP recommends supervised tummy time for babies each day to help with head and neck strength which further improves motor development. For more information on how long babies of different ages should practice tummy time, refer to this resource from KidsHealth. While babies should practice tummy time, they should not while they are sleeping. Once they can roll themselves onto their tummy, it’s okay to let them roll into that position. Nevertheless, parents should still put them to sleep on their back.

One misconception is that placing babies on their backs may aggravate acid reflux or interfere with proper digestion. This has been scientifically disproven – when babies are laying on their tummies, the food pipe is above the windpipe.

According to the AAP and the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition (NASPGHAN), sleeping on the back is safest for all babies, even those with reflux. The only situations when babies should sleep on their tummy are if they have an unrepaired surgical airway or some other serious issues—in which the doctor may recommend otherwise.

Safe Baby Devices

Parents may try to calm their fussy baby by driving around the neighborhood. Dr. Schmit said this practice is fine, but once the baby is back in the home they should be placed in the crib—not left in the car seat to continue sleeping. Dr. Schmit also urged any parent using a device such as the “Rock ‘n Play” to stop doing so immediately.

“The Rock ‘n Plays—an inclined sleeper that rocks—were recalled a couple of years ago due to being linked to multiple infant deaths around the country. Primarily, this was in situations where babies were strapped in and then rolling over and suffocating. It led to us recommending against all inclined sleepers because of that risk.”

For a list of approved baby devices, Dr. Schmit recommends parents discuss options with their pediatrician or visit websites such as healthykids.org or safetosleep.nichd.nih.gov.

Children's, Health and Safety, News

Answers for Parents about the COVID Vaccine for Children Ages 5-11

The recent news approving Pfizer’s vaccine for emergency use authorization for children ages 5-11 by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may leave you with a lot of questions about what is best for your child.

Children’s of Alabama pediatricians Dr. Peily Soong and Dr. Gigi Youngblood have provided information that may help.  We asked the questions, and they provided these answers.

Why do we need to vaccinate children ages 5-11, and why is it so important to make sure they are vaccinated?

Dr. Youngblood: It’s definitely important to vaccinate children in this young age group. First and foremost, receiving vaccines are how we end this pandemic. They’re crucially important for everyone affected by the pandemic. We’re losing kids. There’s a significant portion of pediatric COVID deaths that were in the 5-11 age group. We’re also seeing long term issues with these young children, including multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), which is a really potentially dangerous inflammatory condition that happens after someone has had COVID. Different body parts can become inflamed, and it often includes inflammation of the heart muscle or myocarditis. We feel children deserve protection from these things just as much as everyone else.

How is this vaccine different from the vaccine that may be offered to people 12 years of age and older?

Dr. Soong: It is different because it is a smaller vaccine dose, about a 1/3 of the dose given to the 12-year-old to adult group. The 12-year-old to adult dosage is 30-microgram. The smaller dose for children 5-11 years old is 10-microgram. Although it is a smaller dose, it has been shown to be just as effective in terms of antibody titers, which measures the antibodies in the blood. They compared the studies for the children in this younger age group to the older group, and the antibody levels were about the same in each. Researchers felt the dose should be just as effective at preventing COVID, and a very effective vaccine for all involved.

What are the potential side effects of the vaccine, and what should we know about them?

Dr. Youngblood: Clinical trials show that the vaccine is well tolerated in children. The potential side effects for younger children were fever, fatigue, headaches, and pain at the site of the injection as well as redness and swelling. These side effects are very similar to what we are seeing in adults, but probably even better tolerated in this young age group. We have also seen that the lower the vaccine dose, the lower the side effects, and about half as many children were getting side effects to the vaccine. It seems parents are most concerned about the side effect of getting myocarditis, which keeps making the news. Keep in mind that the only vaccine that’s going to be available for children 5-11 years old is the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine, and there has not really been an increased risk with that particular vaccine. The main thing to remember about any age group and post vaccination is even though people seem to be concerned about such things as clotting risk and myocarditis, people are at a significantly lower risk of these conditions than if they were to get the virus itself. Your child may feel a little under the weather for a day or two after the vaccine, but in terms of scary things, the vaccine there is less of a risk of developing long term side effects than taking a chance with getting COVID itself.

What is some good information for parents when making the decision to vaccinate their children, and staying healthy as we approach the holiday season?

Dr. Soong: We’re anticipating that there could be another surge of the Coronavirus as a result of holiday gatherings. Last year after holiday gatherings and through the winter months, we started seeing peaks in the spread of the virus. Children can easily spread COVID, and so it’s important to get them vaccinated to help protect, not only themselves, but others with weak immune system, the elderly, and those who are not vaccinated.

Getting the vaccine is of course a very important way of protecting your child against COVID-19, but as you’re going through the process of getting vaccinated, do parents need to take other measures, at least to a certain point in time?

Dr. Youngblood: Absolutely. When your child receives the vaccine, there are two doses of 10 micrograms given 21 days apart. It is obvious that those vaccinated do not have magical protection as soon as they receive the shots. You’re not going to reach the most effectiveness until you are fully vaccinated. The body has to build protection against the virus somewhere between one to two weeks after your child receives the second dose. This is why it’s so important that children begin the series as soon as possible before the holidays to prevent another pandemic peak. Until your child has reached that maximum effectiveness, they should continue to use a mask in social settings, and wash their hands constantly. We hope that all of us have developed the habit of washing hands as a result of this pandemic and that frequent hand washing will stay with us anyway. Also, if you or your child is not feeling well or family members are not feeling well, make sure you give full disclosure to those you love, and stay away from others until you know more about what’s going on with your child or with that loved one.

Where can people go for vaccinations?  As it becomes known that Children’s of Alabama and UAB are offering the vaccine to the 5-11 age group, are there also other places you would recommend for parents to take their children to receive the vaccine?

Dr. Soong: We are always the ones that you can trust, and we take care of your children. We are very knowledgeable and a viable resource to what has been going on through this whole pandemic. Keep in mind that a good choice is also your family pediatrician. Your pediatrician sees your child on a regular basis and offers other vaccinations as well, so it is always good to ask their opinion. They may also refer you to one of the nationwide pharmacies that will be offering it to children as well.

For the more information about COVID-19, visit childrensal.org.

Children's

Holiday Food Safety

During the holidays we love gathering with family and friends and enjoying great holiday meals. But it’s important to take precautions to prevent food poisoning. 


Becky Devore is a Nurse Educator with the Alabama Poison Information Center. She offers some helpful tips to make your holiday celebrations more enjoyable. Starting with the turkey, Devore says it’s not necessary to wash your turkey before cooking it. “Don’t wash your turkey, wash your hands,” she says. “The only thing that will take care of bacteria that might be in the turkey is to cook it to the proper temperature which is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.”


It’s important to use a meat thermometer when cooking a turkey. As Devore says, “You cannot tell if a turkey is done by the color. The color is not enough.”


Devore advises to plan your holiday feast several days in advance. If a turkey is frozen and needs to be thawed the best way to safely do so is in the refrigerator. “It takes 24 hours per 4-5 pounds of turkey to thaw in the refrigerator, so it may take several days,” she says.


Other tips include washing your hands throughout meal preparation. Before, during, and after handling all food. She also reminds home cooks to use different cutting boards and utensils for handling raw meat and all other foods. “Be sure to use only non-porous cutting boards made out of glass or plastic for raw meat,” she says.
After the meal is over, be mindful of your leftovers. Put everything away that needs to be refrigerated within two hours. Devore says leftovers should be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. “If in doubt, throw it out!” she says.
The symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever

If you believe you or someone in your family has suffered from food poisoning or any other type of poisoning call the Alabama Poison Information Center toll free at 1-800-222-1222. A registered nurse or pharmacist will take your call and can advise you on the best response. Keep in mind that children, pregnant women, the elderly, or anyone in poor health is most at risk from food poisoning. 
This holiday season, keep these tips in mind to avoid food poisoning and focus on enjoying this time with friends and family.

Children's

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Ann Slattery is the Director of the Alabama Poison Information Center at Children’s of Alabama. She says it’s estimated that 500 people die from unintentional carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning every year. “Any time you have an appliance that uses natural gas, a kerosene heater or if there’s a garage attached to the home, or you have a fireplace you’re at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. CO is produced when fuels like gasoline, propane, and kerosene are burned in an enclosed space or in areas without good air flow. CO does not occur naturally, it is a byproduct of combustion,” she says.

Slattery says the number of people who visit the emergency department due to carbon monoxide poisoning is very high. It’s estimated that 50,000 people a year are poisoned by carbon monoxide. Because it can be hard to detect and the symptoms vary and can mimic other illness such as a virus or food poisoning, one medical journal estimates the number to be as high as 200,000. 

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  1. Headache
  2. Weakness
  3. Dizziness
  4. Nausea or vomiting
  5. Shortness of breath
  6. Blurred vision
  7. Confusion
  8. Loss of consciousness

Carbon monoxide poisoning is called the silent killer because it is:

  1. Colorless
  2. Odorless
  3. Tasteless

Slattery says people often don’t realize dangerous levels of carbon monoxide are in the home. “It can make you drowsy,” she says. “Depending how high the levels are you can go to sleep. Or you may be asleep when the levels rise and not wake back up.” That’s why she strongly recommends carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home.

“If you have natural gas appliances, a garage, a kerosene heater or a fireplace you need a carbon monoxide detector,” she says. Slattery says homes should have multiple detectors in key locations. “You should have a carbon monoxide detector 10-15 feet away from the garage door, inside the home. There should be one 10-15 feet from the fireplace.  And there should be a carbon monoxide detector on each level of the home and outside the bedrooms.”

Locations of Carbon Monoxide Detectors in the Home

  1. 10-15 feet from garage
  2. 10-15 feet from fireplace
  3. On each level of the home
  4. Outside the bedrooms

If you believe someone has been exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, leave the area immediately and call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department. For more information about carbon monoxide poisoning contact the Alabama Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Children's

COVID-19 Vaccine

With COVID-19 vaccine availability and eligibility now including individuals 5 and older, Children’s of Alabama (Children’s) is one of more than 100 pediatric hospitals across the U.S. administering the vaccine through the end of the year. Starting today, Nov. 10, the UAB Pediatric Primary Care Clinic at Children’s of Alabama will administer the vaccine to children and adolescents ages 5-18 on a limited, appointment-only basis, and parental consent is required. The clinic is not a mass vaccination site.  

Children’s recommends vaccination for everyone eligible. If possible, children should be vaccinated at their primary care physician’s (PCP) office, a local pharmacy or community vaccination site. The Children’s COVID vaccination clinic is available for children who do not have a PCP or ready access to a community site. 

Children’s is now providing vaccinations to qualified patients only in some of our outpatient clinics, designated primary care practices throughout the Birmingham area, and for inpatients as ordered by a physician. The UAB Pediatric Primary Care Clinic is the only Children’s site offering vaccinations to qualified children and adolescents who are not our patients.

While Children’s of Alabama (hospital) is not a mass vaccination site, eligible individuals may also receive the vaccine at any community site. For additional information or to find a site, visit https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19vaccine/index.html. To learn more about the Children’s of Alabama pediatric practices offering the vaccine exclusively to their eligible patients, visit https://www.childrensal.org/practices 

WHERE:

UAB Pediatric Primary Care Clinic at Children’s of Alabama
1601 4th Avenue South
Children’s Park Place Clinic
Suite G60 (Ground floor)
Birmingham, AL 35233
Free parking available in the Children’s Park Place parking deck with entrances on 5th Avenue South at 16th and 17th Streets.

WHEN: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

WHO: Children and adolescents ages 5 to 18

DETAILS:

·         Vaccinations at the clinic are available by appointment only by visiting https://childrensal-iszsn.formstack.com/forms/appointmentrequest_vaccine

·         A limited number of appointments will be available each day.

·         Vaccinations at the clinic are available only to children ages 5 to 18, not to parents or adult siblings.

.         Parental consent is required.

.         The vaccine is FREE at all locations.

·         All visitors at Children’s of Alabama are screened for COVID-19 symptoms and those 2 and older should arrive wearing a mask.  Those who are experiencing symptoms of flu, coronavirus or any other contagious illness should not visit Children’s. In addition, those who have had direct exposure to COVID-19 or have traveled to a high-risk area should not visit Children’s.

Children's, Health and Safety

Is it the Flu or COVID-19?

The past year and a half has brought a lot of uncertainty during a global pandemic with fears of COVID-19. Now, as we enter cold and flu season, medical professionals are even more concerned. Delphene Noland is the manager of Infection Prevention and Control at Children’s of Alabama. She’s concerned that families, already fatigued from the pandemic, may let their guard down this flu season. “I think my biggest concern is that people become lax and forget that the flu is a real threat to our community,” she said.

There’s hope that the measures already being taken to respond to COVID-19 may help mitigate the flu. Masks, social distancing and hand washing are all helpful in limiting the spread of both coronavirus and the flu. But the increase in positive COVID-19 cases statewide shows those efforts are not enough to stop transmission entirely. That’s why Noland says it’s critical to get the flu shot this year. “It is of the utmost importance to get your flu shot,” she said. “They are available now. Make it a family event and get everyone vaccinated for the flu.”

How can parents recognize the difference between the flu and coronavirus? What complicates matters is that their symptoms are so similar. “Loss of taste and smell is hallmark COVID-19,” Noland says. “Shortness of breath, is usually seen later in the flu process if the patient gets pneumonia as a complication. But shortness of breath can be seen early on in patients with COVID-19.”

Symptoms Unique to COVID-19:

–             Loss of taste and smell

–             Shortness of breath in early stages

 Symptoms of Both COVID-19 and the Flu:

–             Cough

–             Runny nose

–             Sore throat

–             Fatigue

–             Fever

–             Nausea, Vomiting

And if your child is sick, seek guidance from your pediatrician or primary care provider. “Your pediatrician is your source of truth,” Noland said. 

Children's, Health and Safety

FAQS: 2021-2022 FLU, RESPIRATORY ILLNESS SEASON

Flu

Q: What is influenza or flu?

A: Influenza (also known as the flu) is an infection of the respiratory tract. It is caused by a virus that spreads easily from person to person.  It spreads when people cough or sneeze out droplets that are infected with the virus and other people breathe them in. The droplets also can land on things like doorknobs or shopping carts, infecting people who touch these things.

Q: Is flu contagious?

A: The flu is very contagious. People can spread it from a day before they feel sick until their symptoms are gone. This is about one week for adults, but it can be longer for young children.

Q: How will I know if my child has flu and not just a cold?

A: The fall and winter months are cold and flu season. Both the cold and the flu can present similar symptoms, including cough, congestion and runny nose. In general, the flu hits a lot harder and quicker than a cold. When people have the flu, they usually feel worse than they do with a cold. Most people start to feel sick about two days after they come in contact with the flu virus.

Q: What are some symptoms of flu?

A: 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

Q: When should we get this season’s flu vaccine?

A: Flu season in the United States is from October to May. Vaccines are provided at most pediatricians’ offices. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the flu shot for everyone over 6 months old.

Q: What is the treatment for flu?

A: Most children with flu get better at home. In the event a child does get sick, you can help mitigate symptoms. Make sure your child is drinking plenty of fluids. You can give appropriate doses of acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve fever and aches, and make sure they are getting plenty of rest.

Q: When should I seek medical treatment for my child if I suspect flu?

A: Bring your child to the doctor if you’re concerned about severe symptoms. Most of the time parents can care for their children with plenty of rest, fluids and extra comfort. Some children are more likely to have problems when they get the flu, including:

  • children up to the age of 5, especially babies
  • children and teens whose immune system is weakened from medicines or illnesses
  • children and teens with chronic (long-term) medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes

Q: In addition to the flu vaccine, how else can we stay healthy during cold and flu season?

A:  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the flu shot for everyone over 6 months old. Here are some other tips for staying healthy during cold and flu season:

  • Cover your cough and sneeze
  • Wash your hands
  • Clean living and working areas
  • Avoid crowds
  • Stay home from work or school if you are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth

Q: How can we prevent the spread of germs in our house if my child is sick?

A: The flu virus spreads when people cough or sneeze out droplets that are infected with the virus and other people breathe them in. The droplets also can land on things like doorknobs or shopping carts, infecting people who touch these things.

Teaching children the importance of hand washing is the best way to stop germs from causing sickness. It’s especially important after coughing or nose blowing, after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food.

There’s a right way to wash hands, too. Use warm water and plenty of soap, then rub your hands together vigorously for at least 20 seconds (away from the water). Children can sing a short song — try “Happy Birthday” — during the process to make sure they spend enough time washing. Rinse your hands and finish by drying them well on a clean towel. Hand sanitizer can be a good way for children to kill germs on their hands when soap and water aren’t available.

Cleaning household surfaces well is also important. Wipe down frequently handled objects around the house, such as toys, doorknobs, light switches, sink fixtures, and flushing handles on the toilets.

Soap and water are perfectly fine for cleaning. If you want something stronger, you can try an antibacterial cleanser. It may not kill all the germs that can lead to sickness, but it can reduce the amount of bacteria on an object.

It’s generally safe to use any cleaning agent that’s sold in stores but try to avoid using multiple cleaning agents or chemical sprays on a single object because the mix of chemicals can irritate skin and eyes.

Q: If my child has had flu, when can he return to school, child care, etc.?

A: Children with the flu should stay home from school and childcare until they feel better. They should only go back when they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without using a fever-reducing medicine. Some children need to stay home longer. Ask the doctor what’s best for your child.

Q: How do I know if my child’s symptoms are flu or COVID-19?

A: The symptoms between these two viral illnesses can be similar, making it difficult to distinguish between the two based on symptoms alone. Diagnostic testing can help determine if you are sick with the flu or COVID-19. A phone call to the child’s pediatrician or primary care provider will help determine next steps regarding testing for flu and/or COVID-19.

Q: Do COVID-19 symptoms develop like flu symptoms?

A: If a person has COVID-19, it could take them longer to develop symptoms than if they had flu. According to the CDC, symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea