Story Ideas

Preparing for College

Moving from high school to college can be a big transition for students. Many parents and students stress over this new life chapter, but there are many ways to prepare before even stepping foot in a classroom or dorm.

From researching academic support to developing strong technical skills and learning how to navigate added peer pressure and responsibility,  there is help available to get organized and build a foundation for college success.

Our experts can provide tips to parents on how to strike a balance between having a crucial conversation with their teen and becoming a “helicopter” parent. For more information, contact our Media Relations team by paging the on-call media rep at 205-638-9100.


Bike Safety

Bike riding is fun but a bike crash can be dangerous if a child is not wearing a helmet. Why? Because many bike accidents involve a head injury, so a crash could mean permanent brain damage or death for someone who doesn’t wear a helmet while riding. In fact, each year in the United States, about half a million kids are seriously injured in bicycle-related accidents, and most of those injuries could be avoided by wearing a helmet.

Bike helmets can be purchased at most any cycling store or major department store.  Parents should be sure to choose bright colors or fluorescent colors that are visible to drivers and other cyclists, look for a helmet that’s well ventilated and make sure the helmet has a CPSC or Snell sticker inside. These indicate that the helmet meets standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or the Snell Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit group that tests helmet safety. A proper fit is also important.

To speak to one of our injury prevention experts about bike helmets, proper fit and other safety tips, contact our Media Relations team by paging the on-call media rep at 205-638-9100.

Choking: What to Do and How to Prevent It

Choking is common in children and can be a true medical emergency. Signs of choking include gasping or wheezing, an inability to talk, cry, or make noise, grabbing the throat or waving the arms, appearing panicked or turning blue in the face. A choking episode often requires emergency treatment, but preventing choking is the best tactic to avoid a tragedy. Our injury prevention experts are available to discuss proper steps to take in an emergency and what parents can do to prevent choking. To set up an interview, call 205-638-9100 and ask to page the Media Relations representative on call.

Lightning Safety

Summer is the most likely time to be injured by lightning during a thunderstorm. Lightning strikes can be fatal and can strike up to eight miles ahead of a rain shower? The most dangerous places to be during a thunderstorm are on the road, in a body of water or at sports fields. Children’s of Alabama has tips to help families remain safe during summer storms.

To speak to an expert on this topic, page Media Relations at 205-638-9100.

Poisonous Snakebites

They’re the stuff of nightmares but venomous snakes really do pose a threat in Alabama. Six kinds – the copperhead, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, cotton mouth/water moccasin, pigmy rattlesnake, timber or canebrake rattlesnake and the eastern coral snake – are common around the state. Myths abound, but what are the correct steps to take if bitten by one of these snakes? Here’s what the experts at the Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s recommend:

  • Immobilize the extremity where the bite is located
  • Remove rings and other constrictive items
  • Keep the patient calm and warm
  • Transport to a hospital emergency department as soon as possible

 Do not:

  • Apply a tourniquet – it can dangerously interfere with blood flow.
  • Do not apply ice – it can damage already vulnerable tissue
  • Do not cut into the bite in an attempt to release the poison from the wound – it can introduce bacteria and cause infection.

Need more expert advice about treating snake bites and other types of bites and stings typical of an Alabama summer? Page the Media Relations team at 205-638-9100.

Playground Safety

Playgrounds and outdoor play equipment offer kids fresh air, friends and exercise. However, it’s important for parents to make sure that faulty equipment, improper surfaces and careless behavior don’t ruin the fun.

Each year, more than 200,000 kids are treated in hospital ERs for playground-related injuries. Many of these accidents can be prevented with proper supervision.

To speak with a Children’s expert on this topic, page a Media Relations representative at 205-638-9100.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

While carbon monoxide may come to mind more frequently during winter months, it’s actually a year-round hazard. Knowing how children can be exposed to carbon monoxide can keep them safe from this colorless, odorless, tasteless, poisonous gas. Carbon monoxide is produced when fuel is used in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges or furnaces.  It is one of the leading causes of poisoning deaths in the United States. Carbon monoxide poisoning accounts for approximately 40,000 to 50,000 emergency room visits and 5,000 to 6,000 deaths annually in the United States. Yet all instances of carbon poisonings are preventable. To speak to an expert at the Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama about carbon monoxide poisoning, page a Media Relations representative at 205-638- 9100.

Teens and Sleep

Nearly seven out of every 10 high school students sleep less than 8 hours on an average school night. Changes in the brain during adolescence alter teens’ internal body clocks. A few hours of missed sleep a night may not seem very important, but it can create a noticeable sleep deficit over time. A sleep deficit can affect everything from a teen’s ability to pay attention in class to his or her mood. Experts have tied lost sleep to poorer grades, slowed responses and dulled concentration. Experts at The Sleep Disorders Center at Children’s of Alabama are available to discuss healthy sleep habits, sleep disorders and more. Page a Media Relations representative at 205-638-9100.


Tuberculosis (also known as “TB”) is a disease caused by a type of bacteria called mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB mainly infects the lungs, although it can also affect other organs.

When someone with untreated TB coughs or sneezes, the air is filled with droplets containing the bacteria. Inhaling these infected droplets is the usual way a person gets TB.

One of the worst diseases of the 19th century, TB was the eighth leading cause of death in children 1 to 4 years of age in the 1920s. As the general standard of living and medical care got better in the United States, the incidence of TB decreased. By the 1960s, it wasn’t even in the top 10 causes of death among kids of any age group.

But TB is making a comeback in the United States today — particularly among people who have weakened immune systems.

To speak to one of our experts about the different types of tuberculosis, the contagiousness of the disease and how it is treated page media relations at 205-638-9100.

The Deadly Risks of Tanning Beds

Despite record cold temperatures and an unbelievable amount of snowfall across the country, spring break is just a few weeks away and many teens will be visiting their local tanning beds before heading to the beach. Unfortunately, they could be putting their lives at risk by exposing their skin to the concentrated UVA rays produced in tanning beds.

The sun’s rays contain two types of ultraviolet radiation that affect the skin: UVA and UVB.  Tanning beds use only UVA light, which penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB rays, and cause as much or more damage as the sun.  Plus the concentration of UVA rays from a tanning bed is greater than the amount of UVA rays a person gets from the sun.  Studies have linked that exposure to much higher risks of basal and squamous cell carcinoma, the two most common types of skin cancer. Tanning bed radiation also puts young people at greater risk for deadly melanoma, the most serious kind of skin cancer.

To speak with a skin cancer expert, page a Media Relations representative at 205-638-9100.

What is Croup?

Croup is a condition that that causes an inflammation of the upper airways — the voice box and windpipe. It often leads to a barking cough or hoarseness, especially when a child cries. Outbreaks of croup tend to occur in the fall and winter when the viruses that cause it peak. While most cases of viral croup are mild, if severe it can lead to complications that may require hospitalization.

Children’s experts can discuss ways to prevent the spread of the viral infection croup, treatment options and when to call a physician. Page a Media Relations representative at 205-638-9100.

Fire Safety in the Home

Each year more than 170 children from all over Alabama and bordering communities are admitted to the Burn Center at Children’s of Alabama. Fires are the leading cause of household deaths in the U.S. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, children under five years old are at twice the risk of dying in a residential fire than those in other age groups. Winter is the peak season for Alabama home fires, with cooking and heating as the leading causes and the majority of house fires are fatal.

Our Burn Center is a 6-bed unit supported by a team of professionals that includes surgeons, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, nutritionists, social workers, child life counselors, teachers and chaplains. Children’s is recognized nationally for providing excellent care for traumatically burned children. The average hospital stay of a severely burned child is over seven days, significantly longer than most other types of pediatric hospital stays.

Children’s experts can discuss ways parents can prevent fires and appropriate steps for families to implement an emergency plan. For more information on this topic, including recent statistics or to schedule an interview, please page media relations at 205-638 – 9100.

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)

Until Children’s of Alabama opened its pediatric rheumatology clinic in 2007, youngsters suffering from juvenile arthritis and other auto-immune diseases had to travel outside the state and beyond the southeast for the specialized care they needed. Today, families from across the nation make more than 2,000 visits to Children’s to receive treatment and care from its staff of five pediatric rheumatologists. Not one arthritis patient is wheelchair-bound and nine out of 10 are physically active. Click “play” to meet some of our physicians and their patients and page a Media Relations representative at 205-638-9100 for details or to schedule an interview. (Note: Downloadable HQ video version available here. Extended b-roll is available upon request.)

Communication Begins at Birth

A child’s development of speech and language begins long before he says his first words. Crying, eye contact, cooing and babbling are all ways a baby communicates beginning at birth. And, the muscles an infant uses for sucking and chewing are the same he’ll use for speech sound development. A speech language pathologist from Children’s can discuss the steps of the development of a child’s speech and language, offer tips for enhancing that development and explain some of the warning flags of impairment. Page a Media Relations representative at 205-638-9100 for details or to schedule an interview.


1-3-6 is a campaign created by The Charity League Hearing and Speech Center at Children’s of Alabama that educates parents and professionals about the need for early identification and intervention for children with hearing loss. Every baby should be screened for hearing loss at age 1 month. By 3 months, every baby with permanent hearing loss should be identified; and by 6 months, all children with permanent hearing loss should have amplification and a treatment plan in place. A Children’s audiologist can explain the newborn hearing screening all babies are given shortly after birth and the importance of professional follow-up at 1, 3 and 6 months. Page a Media Relations representative at 205-638-9100 for details or to schedule an interview.

Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is an increasing problem in American society caused by improper nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle and too much time spent indoors at the computer or in front of the TV. Not only does an overweight child face social challenges but more and more overweight children are developing “adult” diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. This multi-faceted subject offers a number of story angles, including the importance of nutrition, physical activity and psychological aspects of obesity and weight management and the increased incidence of diabetes or high blood pressure and the effects on a child’s overall, lifelong health. Page a Media Relations representative at 205-638-9100 for details or to schedule an interview.


The lifelong effects of concussion are being studied across the nation and becoming a greater concern for all children involved in youth sports. In the past year, Children’s of Alabama concussion experts have seen 100 more concussions in clinic and the emergency department than in the previous three years combined. Those experts, including emergency medicine physicians, neurosurgeons, sports medicine physicians and one of the leading certified athletic trainers in the state, are available to discuss diagnosis of concussion, the physical effects of these brain injuries, return to play guidelines for athletes, the role of legislation and ways to avoid injury. Page a Media Relations representative at 205-638-9100 for details or to schedule an interview.

Synthetic Marijuana

Disturbing stories of the effects on users of synthetic marijuana, or “spice,” continue to make news. Toxicology experts from the Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama are available to explain what spice is, what it does to the body’s neurological system and how to know if a child is using. Page a Media Relations representative at  205-638-9100 for details or to schedule an interview.

Preventable Injuries

Falls, poisonings, drowning, fires/burns and suffocations are the five most common injuries for children living in Alabama. All can be prevented. Experts on each of these topics are available to discuss trends and prevention to help parents safeguard their children. Page a Media Relations representative at 205-638-9100 for details or to schedule an interview.

Bicycle Safety

Bicycling is a family-friendly activity that helps improve fitness and fight obesity. But children need to be taught safety before they pedal off down the street. Safety experts can address how best to teach a child the “rules of the road” and discuss not only the importance of wearing a bike helmet, but also how to determine the proper fit. Page a Media Relations representative at 205-638-9100 for details or to schedule an interview.

Teen Driving

Alabama ranks among the top five in the nation for the number of teenage drivers killed behind the wheel. Many factors — inexperience, distractions, the number of passengers in the car, and texting — are at work in these deadly crashes. Children’s works vigilantly with the Alabama Department of Public Health and a number of other agencies to educate teens and their parents about driving hazards and ways to promote safe driving. Physicians from Children’s emergency department and other safety experts are available to talk about how parents can teach their teens about safe driving, review and discuss the Alabama Graduated Drivers License Law, and provide the sobering statistics about motor vehicle crash injuries and deaths as well as ongoing efforts to improve those stats. To learn more about Children’s community outreach and special teen driving events or to schedule an interview with one of our safety experts, page a Media Relations representative at 205-638-9100.

Infectious Diseases Expert Dr. David Kimberlin Provides Update on EV-68

Click to watch a press briefing held today regarding EV-68 and influenza. The speaker, Dr. David Kimberlin, specializes in infectious diseases and serves as co-director of pediatric infectious diseases at UAB and Children’s of Alabama. Page a Media Relations representative at 205-638-9100 for details or to schedule an interview.

Special Skills Workshop Provides Advanced Training for Alabama’s 1,400 School Nurses

As more children with complicated medical issues enter the regular school classroom, school nurses must provide an unprecedented level of complex care that can range from providing insulin injections for diabetes control to clearing a gastrostomy tube to managing seizures. With a school nurse-to-student ratio of 793:1, the task can often seem overwhelming. To help them gain the clinical training necessary, Children’s will offer its annual workshop this month and next. To learn more about this important training and the challenges faced by the school nurse in your own community, contact Kathy Bowers at 205-638-9002 or

Failure to Feed at Birth Often Precedes Speech Development Problems Later; Children’s and Speech Services Bringing the Sounds of Childhood to Many Alabama Families

Did you know more than 1,800 children are treated each month in Children’s Hearing and Speech Center? These children receive diagnostic and rehabilitative speech, language and audiology services. See how Talia Gonzalez has benefitted from the program’s services. Page a Media Relations representative at 205-638-9100 for details or to schedule an interview.

New Program That Treats Tic Disorders, Tourette Syndrome is First in U.S.

The pediatric comprehensive behavioral intervention program for tic disorders (CBIT) is an innovative behavioral-based, drug-free approach now offered at Children’s of Alabama. The approach focuses on occupational therapy and is currently the only one of its kind in the U.S., although the OT who developed and brought the program to Children’s is actively training others from pediatric hospitals across the nation. Page a Media Relations representative at 205-638-9100 to arrange an interview with the head of the CBIT program and a patient who has benefited from the therapy.

Providing a “Normal” Environment for Hospitalized Kids

Being in the hospital is difficult for anyone, but especially when you’re a kid. That’s why we have a staff of Child Life Specialists. Our Child Life program is designed to help our patients feel as much like “normal kids” as possible while they are in our care. The  Child Life staff knows that children/youth need activities that will nurture their developmental and educational needs while they are hospitalized. When children feel like they are “normal” instead of “sick” kids, their stress and anxiety are minimized and that makes it easier for them to get well and return to their life outside of the hospital.

Our specially-trained Certified Child Life Specialists age-appropriate group activities as well as individual programs and activities that are fun for the children and support their unique academic, cognitive, social and medical needs. They also help children learn appropriate ways to cope with the problems, challenges, and/or experiences associated with their medical treatment. Child Life Specialists hold undergraduate degrees in child development and/or education, and sit for special certification.

To learn more about these important pediatric caregivers and the vital work they do, contact Kathy Bowers at or 205-638-9002.

The Sunshine School

When former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice visited Children’s earlier this month, she met with teachers and students at The Sunshine School. This innovative program provides young patients with activities that nurture their developmental and educational needs while they are hospitalized. Providing as much “normalcy” as possible helps minimize patient stress and anxiety, and that helps kids get well. The hospital’s professional educators, in cooperation with the children’s regular school teachers, provide age-appropriate group as well as individual programs and activities that are fun for the children and support their unique academic, cognitive, social and medical needs. They also help children learn appropriate ways to cope with problems, challenges, and/or experiences associated with their medical treatment.

Welcoming, well-equipped classrooms are located throughout the hospital where we offer a reassuring routine in the otherwise unfamiliar and often frightening hospital environment. Our teachers give our young patients opportunities to experience mastery and control over their environment, achieve personal recognition, be industrious, develop a strong sense of identity and participate in developmentally appropriate learning and play activities. Class size in the Sunshine School is small such that children typically receive much more personal interaction with their teacher than in their home school.

Our Sunshine School is a private school licensed by the Alabama State Department of Education. The school is directed by a certified school administrator and staffed by professional educators who are certified in education or special education.

To arrange an interview with one of our Sunshine School teachers and some of her students, contact Kathy Bowers at 205-638-9002 or

After the Storm

Grasping the expanse of the devastation wrought by the tornado that recently swept through Oklahoma is difficult enough for adults. How, then, can a child be expected to overcome the trauma, stress and worry the storm left in its path?

Here at Children’s of Alabama, we learned a lot about dealing with loss following the April 27, 2011 tornadoes that killed and injured so many and left thousands homeless. The counselors at The Amelia Center are experts on helping children and teenagers deal with the kind of loss and grief such storms render.

To interview a bereavement specialist, contact Kathy Bowers at 205-638-9002 or via email at

Dangers of Tiki Torch Fuel Oil

Tiki torches are a mainstay of every summertime backyard gathering in the South, providing festive lighting and protection from pesky mosquitoes. But poison control experts warn that the oil used as fuel in tiki torches poses a health risk that can be fatal.

The danger lies in the fuel’s hydrocarbon base. If aspirated, the oil can cause chemical pneumonitis, which is a serious, acute respiratory illness that requires immediate treatment. Ingesting the oil is equally dangerous and typically happens when the oil is removed from its child-resistant bottle and placed in a lantern.

Ann Slattery, supervisor of the Regional Poison Control Center here at Children’s, is an expert on such hazardous exposures, and can discuss local and national statistics related to torch fuel injuries and deaths, treatment and prevention. To arrange an interview, contact Kathy Bowers at 205-638-9002 or

Antibiotics and Ear Infections

A recent study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding the routine use of antibiotics in treating middle ear infections in children has caused a change in treatment guidelines recommended to primary care physicians.

Antibiotics are one of the marvels of modern medicine but the increasing overuse of these infection-fighters is doing more harm than good. The very germs the drugs were developed to eliminate are becoming resistant to them, resulting in infections that can no longer be effectively treated with antibiotics.

Middle ear infections, or otitis media, in children have been typically treated with antibiotics for many years. The treatment has become so routine, in fact, that parents often expect a prescription from their pediatrician in the belief that it’s the only option for making their child feel better.

The AAP and the American Society of Pediatric Otolaryngologists now recommend, however, that only children who are running a fever of greater than 102.2, have significant pain, have a severe infection in both ears in a child age 2 or younger, or have a ruptured eardrum with drainage should be prescribed antibiotics. Otherwise, parents and pediatricians should, in general, simply treat the symptoms and take a “wait and see” approach because the infections often clear on their own. “They’ll need some pain management until it gets better,” said Brian Wiatrak, MD, FACS, FAAP, the chief of pediatric otolaryngology at Children’s of Alabama.

For persistent or repeated ear infections, a child may need tubes, which help prevent blockages in the middle ear. Early referrals for ear tubes help lower the need for antibiotics.

To learn more about the treatment of ear infections in children or to talk with an ear, nose and throat specialist, contact Kathy Bowers at  or 205-638-9002.

2012 Annual Report

As part of Children’s of Alabama’s ongoing efforts to be good stewards of our resources and the environment, we created a digital Annual Report for 2012 rather than a printed version. Here’s the link:

Children’s Annual Report Postcard

Dancers at Risk

A study recently conducted by Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio showed that the number of dance-related injuries among children and adolescents ages 3 to 19 across the U.S. increased 37 percent each year from 1991 to 2007 and accounted for 113,000 emergency room visits.

Specialists here at Children’s of Alabama have seen the increase among their own patient population and attribute the rise in dance-related injuries to the escalating intensity and specialization in youth sports and activities like dance.

Dr. Reed Estes, an orthopedist who devotes a portion of his practice to dance medicine, sees 20 to 40 dance-related injuries every month. Most are foot and ankle injuries, and include everything from basic sprains and contusions to stress fractures and ligament tears. Estes said most are related to cumulative microtrauma — repeated use that exceeds what the body is able to tolerate for long periods of time. Others result from a sudden action, such as landing inappropriately from a jump or attempting a maneuver without proper training.

“Dance has long been appreciated as an art form,” Estes said. “As the true athleticism dancers must demonstrate continues to become further appreciated, an awareness of associated injuries will increase as well.”

To learn more about dance medicine or to arrange an interview, contact Kathy Bowers at 205-638-9002 or