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Health and Safety

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
Children's, Health and Safety

What is Hemophilia?

Hemophilia is an inherited bleeding disorder where the blood fails to clot. Hemophilia is a lifelong bleeding disorder that currently does not have a cure.

  • There are low levels of clotting proteins in the blood.
  • It is seen mostly in boys (rarely in girls).
  • Very few people have it.
  • There are about 400 babies with hemophilia born in the U.S. each year.
  • About one in every 20,000 men in the U.S. have hemophilia.
  • About 80% of those with hemophilia have hemophilia A (factor 8 deficiency) and 20% have hemophilia B (factor 9 deficiency).
  • Hemophilia occurs in all races and social groups.
  • Women may carry the gene that is passed on to her children.
  • People with hemophilia are born with the disorder.

How can medications help?

  • They can help prevent or stop bleeding.
  • By using medicine and visiting a hematologist regularly, a person with hemophilia can expect to live a long and healthy life.

What happens when someone with hemophilia has an injury?

  • The injured blood vessel gets smaller (vasoconstricts) to let less blood through.
  • Platelets rush to the site and stick together to form a platelet plug.
  • Clotting factor proteins in the blood work together to make threads of fibrin (a protein produced by the body). The fibrin weaves itself into a clot over the platelet plug. This makes a strong seal.

How are injuries different when someone has hemophilia?

  • People with hemophilia can’t make a fibrin clot.
  • A person with hemophilia has problems when a fibrin clot is needed to stop the bleeding. People with hemophilia don’t have enough of certain clotting factors.
  • The fibrin clot is not made or is so thin that the bleeding continues.
  • Someone with hemophilia does not bleed faster than someone without hemophilia. However, the person with hemophilia will bleed longer.

Why is this a problem?

  • Bleeding inside the body is more of a problem for people with hemophilia than bleeding on the outside from a cut or scrape.
  • Inside the body, the blood can go into spaces in joints, muscles, and organs.
  • Over time, this can cause great damage, especially if the bleeding is not treated or happens often.

For educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, consult your doctor.

For more information, visit Hemophilia and Bleeding Disorders Birmingham, Alabama (AL) – Children’s of Alabama (childrensal.org).

Children's, Health and Safety

Spotting Signs of Teen Dating Violence

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

Dating violence manifests in many different forms, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Emotional abuse can be hard to recognize because it typically progresses gradually throughout the relationship. Emotional abuse can include intimidation, manipulation, intense jealousy, threats, controlling behavior, verbal assault and gaslighting. Physical abuse is any means of physical harm, including hitting, kicking or punching. Sexual abuse involves forcing a partner to engage in any type of sexual experience without consent.

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

Teens in an abusive relationship have an increased risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, antisocial behaviors, eating disorders, negative body image, sexually transmitted diseases, trust issues, emotional triggers, lying, stealing, cheating and lack of discernment when picking appropriate partners in adulthood.

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

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

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

The CHIPS Center has abuse prevention resources available. For more information, call 205-638-2751 or visit childrensal.org/CHIPS.

Other resources for you or your teen:

• National Dating Abuse Helpline – 1-866-331-9474 or loveisrespect.org to receive immediate, confidential assistance
• Birmingham Crisis Center – 205-323-7777
• Birmingham Rape Response – 205-323-7273
• RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) – 1-800-656-4673
• If your teen is in immediate danger, call 911.

Children's, Health and Safety, News

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

More than 11,600 children in Alabama were victims of abuse in 2020, according to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. However, the actual number may be higher because many instances of abuse go unreported. The support systems on which many families rely, such as extended family, childcare, schools, religious groups and other community organizations, were limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As families continue to face health and economic strains connected to the pandemic, stressed guardians may be more likely to respond to their child’s behavior in an aggressive way. “Increased stress levels among parents is often a major predictor of physical abuse and neglect of children,” said Debra Schneider, director of the Children’s Hospital Intervention and Prevention Services (CHIPS) Center at Children’s of Alabama.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, but CHIPS staff works year-round to facilitate healing from physical, mental and emotional abuse and to provide prevention education.

Parents and caregivers should look for signs of abusive situations. The child who has endured abuse the longest typically has the longest healing process. The quicker an abusive situation is reported, the faster a child can be provided with medical care, therapy and counseling to heal. “Abuse is not the child’s whole story,” Schneider said. “There is hope when intervention occurs.”

Children who are being abused might:

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

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

Most children think abuse comes from a stranger, but abusers are usually someone a child knows. Schneider suggests teaching about “stranger danger;” however, build off that concept to make them aware that abusers can be someone they know. Schneider states most children are taught about stranger danger, but children need to be taught that most sexual abuse happens with someone a child knows.

Children in an abusive situation need a trusted adult to confide in – parents, grandparents, a teacher, friend’s parent/caregiver or guidance counselor. School prevention education programs encourage a child to tell three adults: two inside and one outside their family. That trusted adult can clearly communicate to the child, “I am here for you if anything is going on. I am not here to judge.”

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

Since conversations about abuse can be very difficult to bring up, Schneider suggests bringing up an incident from the news as a segue into a conversation about the abusive situation. In addition, having these conversations in the car creates a more relaxed, noninvasive environment.

If you suspect an abusive situation, report it immediately. Anyone can provide a report of suspected abuse to report to the local department of human resources or a child protective services agency. All it takes is a suspicion of abuse; the caller doesn’t have to have specific evidence. You can also contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). You don’t have to give your name. If the child is in immediate danger, call 911.

CHIPS staff is a team of specially trained counselors, doctors, social workers and pediatric sexual assault nurse examiners (PSANE). The staff works with law enforcement, the Department of Human Resources and child advocacy center representatives to provide the best possible care for children and families affected by child maltreatment. Services provided include forensic medical evaluations, social work assessments, play therapy, counseling, care coordination, prevention education, court support, expert court testimony and specialized support for victims of human trafficking. For more information, call 205-638-2751 or visit childrensal.org/CHIPS.

Children's, Health and Safety

World Hearing Day

World Hearing Day (March 3) is a global observance of the World Health Organization (WHO) that is championed by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

In 2022, the theme for World Hearing Day is “To hear for life, listen with care.” Hearing loss is among the most common chronic health conditions that American adults experience. Although not all hearing loss is preventable, noise-induced hearing loss is—simply by reducing exposure to excessively loud noise. This is true for people of all ages.

Here’s how you and your loved ones can avoid noise-induced hearing loss:

  • For Infants and Toddlers — Parents and caregivers should pay attention to how loud toys are—especially because young children tend to hold their toys very close to their faces. Many popular products on the market exceed safe noise levels. Make them safer by taking the batteries out or putting tape over the speaker to dampen the sound. Parents should also put well-fitting earmuffs on kids when they will be in a noisy environment such as a sporting event or a fireworks display.
  • For Older Children and Adolescents — Wearing earmuffs or earplugs in noisy environments remains very important, given that WHO says 40% of teens and young adults ages 12–35 are at risk for hearing loss from loud leisure activities. Children at these ages also should be taught to listen safely to their personal technology devices, especially when used with earbuds or headphones. This means keeping the volume to half and taking listening breaks every hour.
  • For Adults — Certain professions—such as jobs in the airline, restaurant, or landscaping and construction industries—pose added risks to hearing, as do many everyday activities such as loud fitness classes, noisy coffee shops, and noisy hobbies. Adults should wear hearing protection in loud environments, limit exposure to noise, and see a certified audiologist if they are experiencing any symptoms of hearing damage.

Signs to pay attention to include experiencing ringing, buzzing, or pain in the ear; having difficulty following a conversation when more than one person is talking; having trouble hearing in noisy places like a restaurant or on the phone; noticing that sounds frequently seem muffled—or people often sound like they’re mumbling.

Hearing loss is far from being just a nuisance: Left untreated, it is associated with a variety of serious health conditions in adults—including cognitive decline, falls, and social isolation and depression. Hearing loss also can impact career success, mental health, and quality of life. In children, untreated hearing loss can lead to academic, social, and behavioral problems. For infants and toddlers, if hearing loss is unaddressed, it can affect their speech and language development—so it’s always important to pay attention and to get a hearing evaluation from a certified audiologist if you have concerns.

What’s a great way to observe World Hearing Day? Anyone with concerns about their hearing (or a loved one’s) should seek a hearing evaluation from a certified audiologist. Evaluations are generally covered by insurance. A searchable database of these hearing professionals can be found at http://www.asha.org/profind or by calling the ASHA consumer line: 800-638-8255.

The Charity League Hearing and Speech Center at Children’s of Alabama provides diagnostic and rehabilitative speech-language and audiology services to the pediatric population in both outpatient and inpatient settings. Our goal is to maximize your child’s communicative potential so that the individual may better adapt to home, school, and social environments. Visit https://www.childrensal.org/hearing-and-speech to learn more.

Health and Safety, News

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: Feb. 21-27, 2022

An estimated 28.8 million Americans experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives. The Eating Disorders Clinic at the Adolescent Health Center at Children’s of Alabama offers specialized medical, psychological and nutritional care for young people with eating disorders. The National Eating Disorders Association’s NEDAwareness Week (Feb. 21-27, 2022) is an annual campaign to educate the public about eating disorders and to provide hope, support, and visibility to those affected. If your child has signs of an eating disorder or needs further management, visit childrensal.org/adolescent-health-center or call at 205-638-9231.

The majority of those with eating disorders – 95 percent – are between the ages 12 and 25.

Eating disorders are complex illnesses that may lead to severe medical and mental health complications due to inadequate nutritional intake. For children and adolescents, this could significantly impact their performance in school and recreational activities.

Eating disorders are more common than most people realize.

Eating disorders can affect people of all ages, races, genders, and body sizes. Signs and symptoms can appear as physical, mental and behavioral changes. Talk with your child’s provider if you notice any changes in eating habits or other concerning behaviors.

The optimal period to develop strong bones is in the teenage years.

Nearly 100 percent of bone density is acquired in adolescence. Teenagers require four cups of dairy each day, which can be challenging. Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake is important for all individuals, especially those with concerning eating habits.

Families are essential to the recovery process of patients with eating disorders.

Preparing and eating meals together is a great way to foster healthy nutritional habits. For more tips on how to support your child’s recovery visit www.feast-ed.org.

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, 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.