Skip to content

Spring Break and Summer Safety

shutterstock_627762437

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

Sun Exposure

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

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

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

Lightning

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

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

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

Water Safety

shutterstock_76255090.jpg

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

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

 

Beach Warning FlagsRip Currents

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

 

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

Tics and Tourette Syndrome

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

New Research for Tics and Tourette Syndrome

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

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

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

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

Diagnosing Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorders

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

Tourette Syndrome

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

Tic Disorder

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

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

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

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

AAP Provides New Guidelines for Fruit Juice Portions

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

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

Infants (under 1 year of age) 

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

Children (over 1 year of age)

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

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

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

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

Hearing and Speech Milestones

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

 

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

3 Months Old

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

6 Months Old

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

1 Year Old

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

18 Months Old

  • Should be able to speak 30-50 words

2 Years Old

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

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

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

Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse

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

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

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

Seasonal Flu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Common symptoms of the flu include:

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

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

Severe Weather Preparedness

In Alabama, we are no stranger to severe weather, so it is a good idea to have a plan for your family to stay safe. Severe weather can happen any time in any part of the country, so it’s a good idea to be prepared ahead of time. Once a storm is approaching, it’s often too late to work on a preparedness plan.

Debbie Coshatt is the Nurse Educator in the Patient Health and Safety Information Department at Children’s of Alabama. She recommends families discuss their severe weather plan in advance, including where they will go for safety. “You want to make sure to go to an area without windows. If the house has a basement that would be ideal. Go to the lowest level of the home, an interior room without windows. A bathroom or a closet are good options,” she says. She also suggests that families practice going to their “safe place” to become more comfortable with the process.

Safe Place

  • Without windows
  • Lowest level of the home
  • Interior room

Coshatt recommends that families prepare a severe weather bag for each member of the family. The bags should always be stored in their “safe place.” This bag should contain essentials such as:

Severe Weather Bag

  • Helmet
  • Flashlight
  • Shoes
  • Name Band (filled out by parents)

She also recommends keeping a weather radio with an extra set of batteries in the safe place.

Other Safe Place Essentials

  • Weather radio
  • Extra batteries

The Patient Health and Safety Information Department at Children’s of Alabama has more information about this and other health and safety related topics. The department also has Storm Bags available for purchase for $5. They are located off the Russell Lobby in the Benjamin Russell Building at Children’s of Alabama.

Poison Look-a-Likes

Parents who take great care to child-proof their home may be overlooking every day household items that pose a risk of poisoning. Ann Slattery is the director of the Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama. She says parents need to watch out for what she calls “look-a-like” products.

For instance, a child may think a bottle of pine cleaner looks like a bottle of apple juice or a bottle of all-purpose cleaner looks like a sports drink. There has also been an increase in poisonings due to detergent pods. The bright colors can cause a child to mistake it for a piece of candy. Experts say it’s best to use traditional detergent if you have a child under 6 years old in the home.

Slattery says the Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama received more than 42,000 calls in 2016. Many of those calls were associated with household look-a-like items. She encourages parents to look around their home for items that may be mistaken for food or drink. And remember, just because an item has child-resistant packaging doesn’t always mean its child-proof.

Slattery says the risk doesn’t only apply to children. “Adults may unintentionally get into these products, not realizing what they are,” she says. “In some cases, it could be dark and they reach for the wrong bottle.” Accidental poisoning may also occur when an individual suffers from dementia. “All household cleaning products should be kept out of sight and out of reach. Ideally, these products should be in a cabinet with a child-resistant closure,” Slattery advises.

The Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama is available 24/7/365 for poison advice for all ages. The number is 1-800-222-1222. Slattery recommends parents store the number in their cell phones for easy access.

8 Tips for Packing Healthy School Lunches that Your Child Will Love

Back to school season is stressful for children and parents alike, and parents are concerned about ensuring that their child eats a nourishing lunch to power through the school day. The situation can prove to be frustrating when the lunches come back home uneaten. Rainie Carter, a pediatric dietitian at Children’s of Alabama, offers tips for packing a lunch that will please both kids and parents.

Cover the Nutritional Bases

  • Include protein to help keep them full through the afternoon with items like string cheese, yogurt, meat, or nuts (if the school guidelines allow them). Carter’s favorite tips are to use a whole wheat tortilla to make pinwheels with lunch meat or freezing yogurt the night before for a creamy treat.
  • Fruits and vegetables are important for your child’s fiber intake. “Kids love to dip and scoop so you can pack a little bit of ranch dressing or hummus with vegetables,” Carter advises. For produce that turns brown when cut, like apples, Carter suggests squeezing a little bit of lemon juice over the chunks to placate picky kids.
  • Stick with whole grain for items like bread or crackers, and stay away from concentrated sweets like candy or gummy snacks as these can lead to an energy crash later in the day. “Also, avoid sugary drinks like soda or juice. Make sure that they have plenty of water, and a frozen water bottle will work as an ice pack too.”

Involve Them in the Process

  • Plan as a family for the week’s lunches. “Spend a little time pre-chopping veggies and fruit, and let your child put portions into bags or containers. If they’re old enough, let them do the cutting too. They are more likely to eat something if they remember helping with it,” Carter said.
  • Giving your child options can be a great way to gain their interest. “Let them pick within your constraints,” Carter suggests. “For instance, show them two choices for a fruit and say, ‘Do you want apples or grapes today?” Parents can also do this in the store to make sure they buy what the child wants to eat. She says to stick to the outskirts of the store for fresh produce and whole grains, avoiding the packaged foods in the aisles.

Have a Little Fun

  • Pack a variety of snacks to keep them interested and sneak in more nutrient-rich foods. “Lunch does not have to be a sandwich and a piece of fruit. Kids enjoy finger foods so bento boxes are popular to portion out a few snacks instead of one big lunch item,” Carter said.
  • Get creative if your child tires of the same lunch items. “Some parents will use a cookie cutter to remove the sandwich crust and make a fun shape. If the school allows it, try putting things on sticks like a fruit kabob. Kids love colorful lunches too, so find ways to incorporate that,” Carter recommends.
  • Try making trail mix with your child, letting them fill their own bags. Carter’s suggested ingredients are dried fruit, granola, nuts or chocolate chips.

For more healthy eating tips and recipe ideas, visit https://www.childrensal.org/snacks-and-recipes.

Teen Driving

Automobile crashes are the number one killer of teenagers and the number one cause of disabling injuries for teens.  Sadly many of these accidents are preventable.

Leslie Brown is the coordinator of Alabama Safe Kids at Children’s of Alabama.

She says parents play an important role in encouraging their children to be safe as a driver and a passenger.

“Parents can start by talking to their child when in elementary school about being a safe passenger,” she says.  “Things like modeling safe behavior, wearing a seatbelt every time and putting the cell phone down. They’re going to do what we do,” she says.

In Alabama, the Graduated Driver License Law is a mandatory restriction in place for inexperienced drivers. One of the requirements is that a new driver may not have more than one non-family passenger in the vehicle with them other than the parent, guardian or a supervising licensed driver at least 21 years of age.

Brown says parents should become familiar with the Graduated Driver License Law and download a Teen Driving Agreement for their new driver to sign. This helps to establish important ground rules to keep the new driver safe.  And Brown says, if the teen violates any of these rules there should be consequences. “Take away their keys when they don’t follow the rules,” she says. “You can also offer rewards when they do make good choices.”

Brown says it’s important that teens and adults do these three things:

-Obey the law

-Wear a seatbelt

-Put down the cell phone

Brown has teenagers of her own so talking about safe driving isn’t just part of her job description, it’s personal.

“I always say to my teenagers, ‘Are you a great friend or a good friend?’” she says. I tell them, ‘Encourage your friends to wear their seatbelts.  Ask, ‘Can I send that text for you?’  instead of allowing them to text and drive.”

Getting a new driver’s license is an exciting time for a teenager.  By helping them to know the law and apply safe driving practices, parents can play an important role in keeping their teens alive.

Children’s of Alabama offers links to the Graduated Driver License Law, the Teen Driving Agreement, and more resources for parents and teens. Visit childrensal.org/Safe-Teen-Driving-Toolkit to download these resources.