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Health and Safety

Orthopedic Injuries

Orthopedic injuries in children are one of the most common visits to the pediatric emergency department (AAP). Courtney Trapp, an orthopedic nurse clinician at Children’s of Alabama, said, “the majority of patients we see come in for injuries related to sports or trampoline parks, especially during the summer months.”

Precautions to take against injury

School being out during the summer months and kids having more free time can lead to unforeseen incidents, including orthopedic injuries. While spending time outdoors is very beneficial for children, the risk of injury increases. Parents can take precautions to prevent their child from being injured.

Teaching kids how to use safety precautions when playing sports and supervising them while they play outside can decrease the risk of injury. Parents should ensure their child is wearing or using proper safety equipment depending on the sport or activity. For instance, if a child is riding a bike, they should wear a helmet. A safety net should always be used on a trampoline. If a younger child is playing with older kids, the younger child is more likely to be injured due to the size difference. Parents should be mindful of who their child plays with to reduce the risk of accidental injury. Implementing vitamin D in a child’s diet is recommended by The American Academy of Pediatrics to help maintain good bone health. Their general recommendation is 600IU (international unit) per day and can typically be found in an over-the-counter multivitamin. 

Signs of a broken bone

A broken bone, also called a fracture, is when a break goes through part or all of a bone. Broken bones typically happen from a fall, accident or sports. Fortunately, the healing process is typically faster for kids who break their bone. “Most kids stay in a cast for 4-6 weeks, wear a splint after and then avoid high-contact sports for several weeks,” Trapp said. 

The signs of a fracture depend on the type of break and the bone affected. Pain, swelling, bruising and lack of movement all indicate a broken bone. Sometimes, there is a deformity – when the body part looks crooked or different than it did before the injury. Doctors order X-rays if they think a bone is broken and treat the broken bone with a cast, splint or brace. Children wear one of these for several weeks or even months, depending on the injury.

What to do if my child breaks a bone?

In situations when a child’s bone breaks, they should not move the injured extremity. “If splinting materials are available, i.e. pillows or blankets, then the parent should try to stabilize the extremity on the way to get the child evaluated,” Trapp said. If caregivers notice an immediate deformity or swelling in a child’s extremity, they shouldn’t give them anything to eat or drink. If they have to be sedated, it has to be done on an empty stomach. Once arriving to a hospital, the child could go to the operating room or emergency room – depending on the injury. How do you know when to bring your child to the emergency room if their bone breaks? If you see a deformity of the extremity, a child should go to the emergency room. If there is not an obvious deformity, the orthopedic team at Children’s recommends visiting the child’s pediatrician to see if they need to be referred to an orthopedic department.

If safety precautions and supervision are implemented while children are engaging in sports and activity, visits to the emergency room can be avoided.

Health and Safety

Heat Illness

Summer in Alabama can bring high temperatures and an oppressive heat index. Kids are at risk for heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke if they play outside or have athletic practices in this hot, humid weather. It’s important for parents and coaches to be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat illness.

Signs and Symptoms

Of heat exhaustion:

  • increased thirst
  • weakness and extreme tiredness
  • fainting
  • muscle cramps
  • nausea and vomiting
  • irritability
  • headache
  • increased sweating
  • cool, clammy skin
  • body temperature rises, but to less than 105°F (40.5°C)

Of heatstroke:

  • severe headache
  • weakness, dizziness
  • confusion
  • fast breathing and heartbeat
  • loss of consciousness (passing out)
  • seizures
  • little or no sweating
  • flushed, hot, dry skin
  • body temperature rises to 105°F (40.5°C) or higher

What to Do

If your child has symptoms of heatstroke, get emergency medical care immediately.

For cases of heat exhaustion or while awaiting help for a child with possible heatstroke:

  • Bring the child indoors or into the shade immediately.
  • Undress the child.
  • Have the child lie down; raise the feet slightly.
  • If the child is alert, place in a lukewarm bath or spray with lukewarm water.
  • If the child is alert and coherent, give frequent sips of cool, clear fluids.
  • If the child is vomiting, turn onto his or her side to prevent choking.

To help protect kids from heat illness

  • Teach kids to always drink plenty of liquids before and during activity in hot, sunny weather — even if they’re not thirsty.
  • Kids should wear light-colored, loose clothing on hot days and use sunscreen when outdoors.
  • On hot or humid days, limit outdoor activity during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Teach kids to come indoors, rest and hydrate right away whenever they feel overheated
Health and Safety

Fireworks Displays Can Be Dangerous When Not Left To Professionals

Fireworks are synonymous with the 4th of July holiday.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) continues to urge families not to buy fireworks for their own or their children’s use, as thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured each year while using consumer fireworks.

Sue Rowe, a charge nurse in the Burn Center at Children’s of Alabama, has advice for those who choose to use their own fireworks this 4th of July.

Her number one fireworks safety rule? “Never leave children unattended around fireworks.”

If you are using fireworks on your own, only use them with adult supervision. Keep children at a safe distance from lit fireworks. She also suggests keeping a bucket of water nearby. Store fireworks in a safe place, outside the main living area, such as in a garage or storage area, out of a child’s sight and reach.

And while sparklers may seem like a safe alternative to large, showy displays, they can be just as dangerous. “The tip of a sparkler produces a significant amount of intense heat,” Rowe said. The AAP reports that sparklers can reach above 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit – hot enough to melt some metals.

However, accidents do happen, and Rowe offers tips if your child is burned with a firework. “The first thing is to immediately apply cool water to the burn site.” She cautions against ice packs, though. For home care, “apply a topical antibiotic ointment to the affected area.” If the burn is significant, a trip to the closest emergency department is advised.

The Burn Center at Children’s of Alabama is the only designated pediatric burn center in the state and one of the largest in the southeast. A specially trained team of pediatric surgeons, registered nurses, physical and occupational therapists, social workers, child life therapists, teachers, pastoral care staff, nutritionists and burn technicians work together to form a cohesive team of professionals dedicated to treating children with burn injuries. The Children’s of Alabama Burn Center is a six-bed specialty unit designed to care for the needs of burn patients ages birth to teenagers. For more information, visit www.childrensal.org/BurnCenter.

Children's, Health and Safety

Lawn Mower Safety

As you begin assigning chores to your children this summer, there are few things to consider about yard work and lawn mower safety.

“We see quite a few patients in our emergency room during the summer because of lawn mower injuries,” said Lisa Maloney, pediatric emergency medicine. “Most typical are skin lacerations and injuries to extremities, such as their hands and feet. We also see some eye injuries when items like rocks or sticks are picked up and thrown by a lawn mower.”

In general, children should be at least:

  • 12 years old to safely operate a walk-behind power or hand lawn mower
  • 16 years old to safely operate a riding lawn mower

When you decide your child is ready to use a lawn mower, spend some time with them reviewing the equipment’s owner manual in advance and talking about how to do the job safely. The most important thing, said Maloney, is parental supervision.

“Lawn mower injuries can be severe. These types of injuries require many surgeries involving many specialists, especially when the goal involves saving a limb,” Maloney said.

Before mowing:

  • Inspect the area to be cut, and remove any items that could be picked up and thrown by the lawn mower.
  • Ensure your lawn equipment is in good working condition.

While mowing:

  • Use sunscreen, safety glasses or goggles, closed-toe shoes and hearing protection.
  • Small children should be a safe distance away while the lawn mower is in use.
  • Never allow children to ride as passengers on a riding lawn mower.
  • Avoid mowing in reverse.
  • Push or drive your mower up and down slopes, not across, to prevent mower rollover.

After mowing:

  • When you turn your mower off, make sure the blades are completely stopped.
  • Only refuel the mower once the engine has cooled.

A lawn mower is a very powerful tool. It can cause serious injuries, but many of these injuries are preventable. Keep your children safe around lawn mowers this summer. Following these guidelines can help prevent lawn mower injuries.

Children's, Health and Safety

Talking to Your Children About the News

Children hear about what’s going on in the world through social media, friends, or adults’ conversations. Sometimes the news is uplifting — like kids their age taking a stand on social or environmental issues. Other times, children may worry about current events like the recent school shooting in Texas and need an adult to help make sense of what’s happening.

Help your child understand the news and feel more in control by taking these steps: 

Find Out What Your Child Already Knows

  • Ask your kids questions to see if they know about a current event. For school-age kids and teens, you can ask what they have heard at school or on social media. 
  • Consider your child’s age and development. Younger kids may not grasp the difference between fact and fantasy. Most kids realize the news is real by the time they are 7 or 8 years old.
  • Follow your child’s lead. If your child doesn’t seem interested in an event or doesn’t want to talk about it at the moment, don’t push. 

Answer Questions Honestly and Briefly

  • Tell the truth, but share only as much as your child needs to know. Try to calm any fears and help kids feel safe. Don’t offer more details than your child is interested in.
  • Listen carefully. When kids hear about an upsetting event like a school shooting, they may worry, “Could I be next? Could that happen to me?” Older kids may have lots of questions. Focus on what your kids ask so you can help them cope with their fears. An adult’s willingness to listen sends a powerful message.
  • It’s OK to say you don’t know the answer. If your child asks a question that stumps you, say you’ll find out. Or use age-appropriate websites to spend time together looking for an answer.
  • Limit how much kids watch online, on TV, and social media about the events. The strong images may be upsetting for kids and teens. 

Help Kids Feel in Control

  • Encourage your child to talk. If your child is afraid about what’s going on, ask about it. Even when kids can’t control an event — like a school shooting or natural disaster — it can help them to share their fears with you.
  • Urge teens to look beyond a news story. Ask why they think an outlet featured a frightening or disturbing story. Was it to boost ratings and clicks or because the story was truly newsworthy? In this way, a scary story can be turned into a discussion about the role and mission of the news.
  • Teach your children to be prepared, not panicked. For example, if the news is about a school shooting, talk about the ways schools are keeping kids safe. If it’s about a natural disaster, make a family plan for what you might do. If an illness is spreading, talk about ways to protect yourself and others.
  • Talk about what you can do to help. After a tragic event, finding ways to help can give kids a sense of control. Look for news stories that highlight what other people are doing. Articles such as School Violence: What Students Can Do may be helpful for older kids and teens. 
  • Put news stories in context. Broaden the discussion from a specific news item about a difficult event to a larger conversation. Use it as a way to talk about helping, cooperation, and the ways that people cope with hardship.

Limit Exposure to the News

  • Decide what and how much news is appropriate for your child. Think about how old your kids are and how mature they are. Encourage them to take breaks from following the news, especially when the topics are difficult.
  • Keep tabs on the amount of difficult news your child hears. Notice how often you discuss the news in front of your kids. Turn off the TV so the news is not playing in the background all day.
  • Set limits. It’s OK to tell your kids that you don’t want them to have constant exposure and to set ground rules on device and social media use. 
  • Watch the news with your child and talk about it. Turn off a story if you think it’s not appropriate for your child. 

Keep the Conversation Going

  • Talk about current events with your child often. Help kids think through stories they hear – good and bad. Ask questions like: “What do you think about these events?” or “How do you think these things happen?” With these types of questions, you can encourage conversation about non-news topics.
  • Watch for stress. If your child shows changes in behavior (such as not sleeping or eating, not wanting to be around people, or worrying all the time), call your child’s doctor or a behavioral health care provider. They can help your child manage anxiety and feel better able to cope.

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Children's, Development, Health and Safety

Communication Begins at Birth: 12 – 24 Months

This year-long period is when language development truly takes off. Your child’s understanding of the world around them, especially for language and sounds, is much more developed than before. Most kids typically say their first words around their first birthday, but a toddler who is actively learning to walk will commonly postpone their speech development. By two years old, most toddlers will say 50-100 words or moreand be able to put together two-word phrases.

Listed below are some typical milestones, enhancement activities, and red flags for your baby’s hearing and speech development at this age. Note that every child is different, and some reach these milestones sooner or later than others. If your child is not developing in accordance with these guidelines, consider contacting your pediatrician or family health physician. 

Typical Development: 

  • Uses several words with a variety of speech sounds, slowly developing into 20-50 words
  • Enjoys simple songs and rhymes
  • Understands two step directions (ex: “Get your shoes and come here”)
  • Can make simple needs known through speech
  • Asks simple questions
  • Knows and points to body parts

Activities: 

  • Praise and encourage efforts in all areas: moving, playing, talking, singing
  • Avoid over-correcting your child’s efforts to speak
  • Always fully listen when your child speaks to you
  • Ask your child questions that stimulate thought and check understanding

Red Flags: 

  • Uses only vowel sounds to speak
  • Cannot follow simple commands
  • Does not respond to sounds or responds only to loud sounds
  • Points or grunts to make needs known

Your little one is listening to everything you say and storing it away at an incredible rate. Instead of using “baby” words, start using the correct names for people, places, and things. Speak slowly and clearly, and keep it simple. Your child’s vocabulary will grow quickly, but pronunciation isn’t likely to keep pace. By 2 years of age, most kids are understandable only about half the time, so emphasize the correct pronunciations in your responses.

Gestures are an important part of language development. Make the connection between the gestures your child makes and language by using a running commentary such as, “Do you want a drink?” (when your child points to the refrigerator), then wait for a response. Then say, “What do you want? Milk? OK, let’s get some milk.” Such behavior encourages kids to respond and participate in conversations

Children’s of Alabama Hearing and Speech Center: https://www.childrensal.org/hearing-and-speech 

Children's, Development, Health and Safety

Communication Begins at Birth: 4 – 8 Months

During these months, your baby is learning to talk with lots of babbling and laughing. They are discovering a new range of sounds as well as imitating some of those sounds. They will also start to understand different tones of voice and respond accordingly.

Having a “conversation” with your baby is as important as ever during this time. Surprisingly, babies comprehend words long before they can say them, so use real words and cut back on the baby talk.

Listed below are some typical milestones, enhancement activities and red flags for your baby’s hearing and speech development at this age. Note that every child is different, and some reach these milestones sooner or later than others. If your child is not achieving these developmental milestones, consider contacting your pediatrician or family health physician.

Typical Development:

  • Turns head to locate sounds beyond what able to see
  • Notices toys make sounds
  • Shows interest and pleasure when spoken to
  • Responds to different tones and sounds but not upset
  • Calms by favorite sounds
  • Begins to repeat sounds (such as “ooh,” “ahh,” and “ba-ba”)
  • Responds to name when called
  • Makes sounds to get attention
  • Shouts to gain attention
  • Understands “no-no” and “bye-bye”

Red Flags:

  • Does not laugh or smile
  • Makes little noise
  • Does not respond to sound or responds only to loud sounds
  • Does not interact vocally by making sounds or makes sounds only in monotones

Activities:

  • Call baby by name
  • Play vocal and simple games like peek-a-boo
  • Talk about activities during play
  • Make play sounds and wait for response: taking turns
  • Name body parts while playing and dressing
  • Read to your baby

By the end of eight months, you can expect a lot of progression in your baby’s ability to listen and talk. They will respond to their names, respond to sounds by making their own, babble repetitive consonants, imitate sounds and even associate words with familiar objects. Reinforce this progress by introducing your baby to simple words that apply to everyday life. They understand more that you think!

Children's, Development, Health and Safety

Communication Begins at Birth 1 – 3 Months

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month.

Once a child is born, he or she starts gaining crucial skills for proper development. The basic building blocks for typical and healthy child development includes the development of speech and hearing communication. It is important for parents to be aware of developmental milestones because communication begins at birth.

Through a four-part series of blog posts, we will be highlighting important communication milestones for babies between the ages of one to 24 months. This series will help parents know what to expect as their baby develops. Note that every child is different, and some reach these milestones sooner or later than others. If your child is not achieving these developmental milestones, consider contacting your pediatrician or family health physician.

One to three months is an exciting time for parents because babies make a lot of progress in communicating. Your baby’s personality will start to show through as you have two-way “conversations,” exchanging smiles and oohs and aahs.

Listed below are some typical milestones, enhancement activities and red flags for your baby’s hearing and speech development at this age.

Typical Development:

  • Pays attention to faces and surroundings
  • Smiles at the sound of a parent or caregiver’s voice
  • Calms to caregiver’s voice
  • Smiles with social contact
  • Coos and makes sounds when talked to
  • Imitates some sounds and facial expressions

Activities

  • Smile at baby
  • Talk, babble, coo to baby
  • Sing to baby

Red Flags:

  • Does not respond to a sound
  • Does not look at face

Babies main form of communication at this age is crying. They may cry to let their parents know that they need something, or because they are overwhelmed by all of the sights and sounds of the world. Sometimes they cry for no clear reason, so as long as your baby is not sick or hurt, try not to be upset if your baby is crying and you can’t console him or her right away.

For more, visit the Children’s of Alabama Hearing and Speech Center website: https://www.childrensal.org/hearing-and-speech 

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

Director Think First 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

CHILDREN’S OF ALABAMA DOCTORS INVESTIGATING CASES OF HEPATITIS

Hepatologists and infectious disease doctors at Children’s of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham are investigating several cases of hepatitis found in the state since last fall, and they want to make the public aware of how to stay safe.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the latest data on these cases Friday.

Children’s of Alabama doctors treated nine patients – all children under 10 years old – for hepatitis between October 2021 and February 2022. They say all nine cases were caused by adenovirus – a common virus that often leads to vomiting and diarrhea. Two of the patients needed liver transplants.

Doctors say what’s unique about this situation is that adenovirus typically does not lead to hepatitis in healthy patients. When it does lead to hepatitis, it’s usually in patients who are immunocompromised. When doctors at Children’s and UAB discovered the initial cases in the fall, they alerted the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and the CDC.

Doctors say the cases initially presented as vomiting and diarrhea. Within a few days, the patients showed signs of jaundice and yellowing of the eyes, which are indications of possible liver failure.

To protect yourself from adenovirus, doctors offer the following recommendations:

  • Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unclean hands
  • Use disinfectants to wipe down surfaces
  • Avoid close contact with infected individuals