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A Game Plan to Beat the Flu

flu.jpbThe approach of autumn may bring thoughts of football to mind, but it’s also a time to prepare for the upcoming influenza season. Just as football teams draw up strategies in preparation to play and defeat their opponents, the same approach may be taken with Influenza by preparing a game plan of your own.

Here are some of the best strategies you can use to protect you and your family against influenza:

1. Know Your Opponent

Coaches scout their opponents before the season starts so they know what they will be facing when game day arrives. Knowing what Influenza is and how we can fight it is a great weapon for us. Many people think influenza (flu) is “stomach flu”, but influenza is a respiratory infection caused by a virus. The flu virus can cause severe illness and spreads easily from person to person. Influenza generally causes the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache/muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • Sore throat
  • Dry cough

Children may also experience nausea and vomiting. Antiviral medications are available to fight influenza, but they work best when given early in the illness.

2. Defense Wins the Game

While scoring points is critical to winning games, preventing the opponent from scoring is just as important. Score points of your own and build up a good defense against influenza by doing the following:

  • Get vaccinated – The CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older receive an annual flu vaccination. The vaccine is available as a shot and as a nasal mist.
  • Wash your hands – This is the best way to prevent the spread of infections. The flu virus is spread mainly from people sick with influenza when they cough, sneeze or talk. You can also get influenza by touching surfaces like doorknobs and countertops where the flu virus has landed, and then by touching your mouth, nose, eyes.
  • Avoid those who are sick and stay home from school or work if you do get sick with influenza.

3. Prepare in Advance for Your Opponent

Teams begin planning strategies against opponents well in advance of game day. Seasonal outbreaks of influenza can start in October, with peak flu activity usually seen in January or later. The CDC recommends that you get vaccinated as soon as it is available to you. The vaccine will protect you against influenza throughout the entire flu season; however, it takes about two weeks after you get the vaccine to fully develop that protection. There is no truth to concerns about getting a flu shot too early in the year … don’t wait until it is too late!

4. Teamwork is essential

Even one member of a football team who fails to do their part may result in the quarterback being sacked!  Similarly, the family is best protected when each member who is able to do so, receives the flu vaccine. Certain people are at high-risk for developing complications from influenza, including:

  • People with medical conditions, including asthma or other chronic lung disease, neurological disorders, heart disease, liver and kidney disorders, metabolic and endocrine disorders, blood disorders, those with weakened immune systems, and those who are morbidly obese, among others.
  • Those who are under 5 years of age, and particularly those less than 2 years of age.
  • Women who are pregnant.
  • Adults over the age of 65.

Children less than 6 months of age are too young to be immunized, so it is very important for all other family members to be immunized in order to prevent spreading the illness to young infants.

A common fear is that the flu vaccine causes influenza. The flu vaccine does not contain live flu virus, so you cannot get the flu from this vaccine.

Flu vaccines are offered at most doctor’s offices or clinics, through local health departments, at most pharmacies and at many workplaces. This vaccine locator can help you find a place near you where you may be able to get a flu shot.

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Customized Care Plans for Cancer Survivors

survivorshipFor patients with cancer, recovery doesn’t end when the treatment stops.

Unprecedented gains have been made in the cure rates for childhood cancer during the past decade. This progress reflects the medical community’s dedication to cancer research, innovative treatment methods, and a relatively new multidisciplinary approach to cancer care. Because of this steady improvement and the growing knowledge on how to treat the disease, more and more children are beating cancer and becoming classified as cancer survivors.

Of course, fighting cancer takes a huge physical and emotional toll and often has lingering effects that can last long after the cancer has gone. The impact of the disease not only affects the patient, but also the patient’s parents and other family members. As part of our dedication to heal, Primary Children’s Hospital is working hard to ensure that patients and their families continue to receive the care and support they need, even after the cancer treatment has ended. That’s why we’re involved in numerous research studies to help break down any barriers that might stop a patient from continuing to receive care. Our goal is to ensure that all cancer patients receive the physical, emotional, social, and financial support they need to live long, healthy, and productive lives after cancer.

One key initiative at Primary Children’s Hospital is creating customized care plans for cancer survivors. The project is led by Anne Kirchhoff, PhD, MPH, who was awarded a Hyundai Hope on Wheels grant to embark on this project. The goal is to deliver better support for patients in the long term by designing a customized plan that not only maps out the follow-up care needed, but also provides connections to resources.

Customized Care Plans

Every cancer survivor has different needs, based on the type of cancer they had, the treatment they received, and a combination of other physical, emotional, social, and financial factors. Each individualized Survivorship Care Plan will cover the follow-up physical care a patient will require, while keeping a sharp focus on emotional and social needs the patient has throughout the transition from cancer treatment to primary care and life outside the hospital. The customized plan will become a priceless resource for the cancer patient, family members, and the medical service providers that continue to treat the patient throughout the patient’s lifetime.

The project is currently in the needs assessment phase. Dr. Kirchhoff and her team are working with pediatric cancer patients and their families, as well as with physicians, nurses, social workers, and other medical professionals who are part of the cancer care team. The study is also assessing ways that a Survivorship Care Plan can be included in every cancer patient’s medical record, so that important details about the patient’s medical history, and anticipated future needs, can be easily, yet safely shared with all care providers.

Financial barriers to care and access to health insurance are also serious concerns being researched by Dr. Kirchhoff and other Primary Children’s physicians, including Dr. Mark Fluchel. In an effort to find better ways to support pediatric cancer survivors and their families in the long term, studies are being conducted to determine the direct and indirect healthcare costs that cancer survivors continue to face. As we gather more information and identify barriers to healthcare, we are better able to develop customized care plans that address monetary concerns and provide connections to financial supports.

Helping to develop comprehensive Cancer Survivorship Care Plans is one of the many ways Primary Children’s Hospital is working to improve the quality of life for our patients. When a child is diagnosed with cancer, there are a million immediate needs that must be met. Our aim as a hospital is to be there every step of the way—during the fight and after—helping patients not only to make smooth transitions back into their lives, but also to help ensure that their lives are as full and fulfilling as they can be.

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Ebola 101: Answers for Parents

ebolaRecently, the media has been reporting about the spread of Ebola outside of Africa. Many people are concerned about Ebola, but there’s no reason to panic. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says there’s no sign that an outbreak will happen elsewhere in the world.

When people with Ebola are correctly diagnosed, isolated, and cared for, the risk of passing the disease to others is low. In the meantime, travelers should avoid going to areas where an outbreak of Ebola has been reported. Those who need to travel to these regions should take precautions to avoid becoming infected.

What Is Ebola?

Ebola, or Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF), is a contagious and life-threatening disease that affects humans and other primates, like monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees. It causes the body’s immune system to go into overdrive — which can lead to severe bleeding, organ failure, and death.

Ebola gets its name from the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). The disease was first reported in a village on the river in 1976. Since then, there have been a few outbreaks of the disease in western Africa, Uganda, and Sudan

Doctors aren’t sure how the first person gets Ebola at the start of an outbreak, but they think that people may pick up the virus from contact with infected animals. Tropical animals in Africa believed to carry the virus include other primates, fruit bats, porcupines, and forest antelope.

Once someone has Ebola, he or she can pass the virus to others in different ways. People can get the virus by handling or touching drops of blood, urine (pee), or other body fluids of someone infected with the disease, or through contact with objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected blood or fluids.

Because of this, Ebola can spread quickly within families and in health centers where caregivers or others don’t wear proper protective equipment, like gloves and masks.

How Contagious Is It?


Ebola is contagious, but not as contagious as the influenza (flu) virus. With Ebola, a person is only contagious after he or she starts to feel sick with symptoms from the virus. In areas where there is an Ebola outbreak, anyone who isn’t feeling well should get immediate medical help and avoid contact with others.

After starting to feel ill, people with the disease are contagious for as long as the virus can be found in their blood and body fluids, even if they recover from the symptoms of the disease. The virus can remain in a person’s body fluids for weeks after recovery.

Signs & Symptoms

The first signs of Ebola can appear from 2 to 21 days after someone has been exposed to the virus. Most people’s symptoms begin 8-10 days after exposure.

Early symptoms of Ebola include:

  • Fever
  • headache
  • Joint and muscle aches
  • Weakness and tiredness
  • Sore throat
  • Chills

As the disease progresses, other symptoms can appear, including:

  • Bleeding inside and outside of the body
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rash
  • Chest and stomach pain
  • Trouble with breathing or swallowing

In its later stages, Ebola can lead to severe bleeding, shock, coma, organ failure, and death, usually from low blood pressure.


An early and accurate diagnosis of Ebola is important to help prevent the spread of the disease. But because early symptoms are similar to those caused by other common diseases, it can be hard to diagnose Ebola quickly.

If a person has Ebola symptoms and has been in an area where Ebola is known to exist, he or she needs to be immediately isolated from other people and examined by trained health professionals wearing the proper protective gear.

Doctors can check for the presence of the Ebola virus by performing a number of blood tests, liver function tests, or virus isolation tests in a laboratory.


Most people who get Ebola need intensive care in a hospital or other well-equipped medical center. Treatment involves keeping them well hydrated, maintaining their oxygen and blood pressure levels, replacing lost blood through transfusions, and treating symptoms and complications as they come up. Patients also need to be isolated from the public during treatment to help prevent the disease from spreading.

Some experimental treatments for Ebola have been effective when tested on animals, but are not officially approved for use in people.


There is no vaccine to prevent Ebola, although doctors are working on developing one. It can be hard to prevent the disease since doctors aren’t entirely sure how it infects people at the start of an outbreak.

The best way to guard against Ebola infection is to avoid areas that have had outbreaks. Those traveling to Africa, particularly West Africa, should first check the CDC’s Ebola website to see where Ebola is present and avoid those regions.

Those who have to go to an area where Ebola is present should avoid contact with infected people, wash their hands often, and not touch or eat wild animals. Those working with Ebola patients must wear a mask, gloves, eye shields, and other protective clothing.

Public health measures are focused on isolating and treating people who are infected with the Ebola virus. Any needles or other equipment used in their treatment should be disposed of properly. The remains of those who die from the disease must be kept isolated and buried promptly by trained professionals wearing full safety gear.

Ebola is one of the deadliest diseases known to mankind. But with early, aggressive treatment and new breakthroughs, doctors are having more success than ever treating it. And with the possibility of a vaccine on the horizon, Ebola eventually might go the way of smallpox and other diseases that are no longer a threat.

This information is part of Primary Children’s KidsHealth website. This resource features information on a variety of health topics for you and your children.

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Primary Children’s Hospital Evaluating Patient for Possible Ebola Virus

PCH-Press-ConferenceUpdate on Patient with Possible Ebola Virus – October 3, 2015 – 6:00 p.m. (MST)

Primary Children’s Hospital has now eliminated the possibility of the Ebola virus. The sample sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday, Oct. 2, has tested negative for Ebola virus and the patient has been discharged.

Primary Children’s Hospital admitted a patient earlier this week, who had traveled to an area of west Africa not currently affected with Ebola, who presented with symptoms that raised some concerns for the Ebola virus.

“Primary Children’s used this opportunity to test our preparedness systems and ensure that they worked as planned,” says Andrew Pavia, MD, Primary Children’s Hospital’s Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. “The possibility, though extraordinarily rare, that this patient had Ebola posed enough concern that we felt it was important to activate our preparedness plan and make sure we were taking all necessary precautions.”

Primary Children’s Hospital and other large referral hospitals in Utah have been developing Ebola preparedness plans for more than two months. This planning has taken place in consultation with the Utah Department of Health and the CDC.

Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, held a press conference and released the following statement – October 2, 2015 – 1:00 p.m. (MST)

Primary Children’s Hospital has admitted a patient, who had traveled to an area of west Africa not currently affected with Ebola. The patient presented with symptoms that raised some concerns. However, based on what we know so far, it is extremely unlikely that this is Ebola.

We are taking this opportunity to use our preparedness systems and ensure that they work well. In addition to maximally protecting our staff and patients, we’re working with the Centers for Disease Control to completely eliminate the possibility of Ebola.

Even if Ebola were to be seen in the hospital, it is important to know that it would pose no risk to other staff, patients or visitors, since Ebola is not airborne and not easily transmitted.

Primary Children’s Hospital, and other large referral hospitals in Utah, has been developing an Ebola preparedness plan for more than two months. This planning has taken place in consultation with the Utah Department of Health and the CDC. We are prepared to isolate persons who may have exposure, test for Ebola, and provide care. We are confident if we had a patient with Ebola that we could provide care safely.

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Patient Engagement: The Medically Engaged Teenager

by Sahar Ameri and Debbie Bemeldoctorteen
Pediatric Education Services

As parents, we encourage our teens to take on more personal responsibilities, including engagement in their own healthcare. This is just as important for those with medical issues as it is for otherwise healthy teenagers.

During adolescence, children undergo emotional and physical changes at a time when they are dealing with increased life stress. All of these things can affect a child’s emotional and physical health. Parents can help their children understand and assume more responsibility for their health needs. Some teens may find it difficult to openly communicate about their feelings, but it is important that they know how to speak to their doctors.

Here are some tips to help you and your teen:

  1. Encourage your child to communicate openly with their physician.
  2. Allow them privacy when they meet with their physician. Yes, Mom and Dad–that means you might leave the room!
  3. Assure your child of their privacy rights as outlined by physician-patient confidentiality laws.
  4. Help your teen become familiar with their physical and healthcare issues. They should have a sound understanding of any chronic illness and treatments.
  5. Have them maintain a list of their medications they are taking and ensure they understand what each medication is for.
  6. Allow them the freedom to contact their healthcare provider independent of you.
  7. Encourage independent health care management and follow up.
  8. Let them know you are supportive of their health, healthcare, and any decisions they wish to make (within reason of course!)
  9. If you fear they are not compliant with their medical plan, have an open and frank discussion with them about the ramifications of non-compliance.
  10. If they are non-complaint, set clear expectations and limits, then make sure you hold them to these limits.

The Age of Information

Most adolescents gain knowledge from their peers or the internet. While the internet may be a useful tool, it can also have incorrect information. The best way for your teen to understand their medical needs is to visit a doctor with whom they have a rapport and have frank and private discussions. Teens should know that they can communicate any issues they are facing to their physician and that they will not be judged or punished. Their doctor is there to address any concerns they may have.

Here are some possible questions to have your teen ask their doctor:

  • Will the information I give to you be private? What, if anything, will you tell my parents?
  • What will the prescribed medication do? Why am I taking it and what are the side effects?
  • How can I prevent illness?
  • If I do not improve, when should I call to reschedule an appointment?

Age and Consent in Healthcare

For those 18 and Over

Anyone 18 years or older is in control of their own medical care. This means several things:

  • They will need to sign consents for treatments and procedures unless they have been declared incompetent or are incapacitated.
  • They are not required to share their healthcare information with their parents.
  • Anyone 18 years of older will be asked if they have an Advanced Directive when being admitted to the hospital. Find out more about Advanced Directives.

Minors and Medical Information

Children under the age of 18 will require parental consent for procedures or treatments. In some circumstances, a minor may receive medical care without parental consent. In these cases, the minor may then control the medical information.

These situations include:

  • Minors who are married or in the armed forces may seek medical care without the consent of their parents. Minors then control their medical information.
  • Minors who are pregnant or who is a parent with custody of a minor child may receive certain authorized medical services for themselves or their child without parental consent.
  • Minors may request and receive medical care or services related to a sexually transmitted disease without parental consent and are then in control of their medical information.
  • Minors age 16 or older may be emancipated by a juvenile court order in Utah. Emancipated minors may obtain healthcare services without parental consent and are then in control of their medical information. Legal documentation must be obtained before recognizing the minor as emancipated.

For more information,  see the State of Utah Department of Health Confidentiality Policy for Minors.

Additional Resources for Teens:

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Child Passenger Safety Week

seat-belt-buckleby Whitney Henrie
Child Advocacy Specialist

In my line of work I hear a lot of stories about how in the past, cars didn’t have seat belts and car seats were rarely used, if at all. The question I usually here at the end of one of these stories is something like, “Well I survived without all that stuff and so did my kids. So why is it so important?”

September 15-20 is National Child Passenger Safety Week and we want to make sure everyone knows why car seats and seat belts are important.

Did you know that car seats have saved the lives of an estimated 9,600 children age 4 and younger between 1975 and 2010? That’s just those under the age of 4. Think how many more were saved by their booster seat or seat belt. That’s 9,600 more children who went on to have full lives. That’s a lot of families that were saved the heartache and grief of losing a child. In 2012 alone, an estimated 284 lives were saved by child restraints and an additional 58 children could have lived if car seat use was 100 percent.

It is estimated that every 34 seconds a child under 13 is involved in a crash and motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for kids 1-13. Unfortunately car seats and seat belts, now a prevalent part of our society, are not being used to their full advantage. In 2012, over one third of children killed in car crashes were not in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts.

The good news is there is a lot that can be done. The following is a list of steps you can take to keep your kids safer today:

  • Keep your child in the right car seat for their size, not just their age. Often kids are moved from rear-facing to forward-facing, a harnessed seat to a booster seat, or prematurely to a seat belt before they are ready. Just because your child is 2-years old doesn’t automatically mean they are ready to be turned forward-facing. Check the height and weight limits on the labels and use the seat until your child reaches these limits.
  • Read your instruction manual. Reading both the instruction manual for your car seat and your vehicle can help ensure that you are installing and using the seat correctly. If you are having any trouble, or would just like to make sure you’ve installed the seat correctly, don’t hesitate to call the Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians here at Primary Children’s (801-662-6583).
  • Keep kids under age 13 in the back seat. From 2008 to 2012 there were 1,874 kids in the 8-14 age group killed in crashes. 1/3 of those were killed while riding in the front seat. The backseat is the safest place for kids to be until they are at least 13-years old.
  • Buckle up on every ride, every time! You never know when a crash will happen, so it’s important to always have everyone in the car restrained properly, even if you are just going around the block. Making buckling up a habit on short trips will make it easier to enforce on longer ones.

Spend a little time thinking about the way your family travels this National Child Passenger Safety Week. Double check that all your kids are in the right seat and that they are installed and used correctly. Make sure you are buckling up yourself! Your kids will notice and follow your example. Let’s make sure even more lives are saved by properly buckling up.

Whitney-HenrieWhitney has a degree in Health Promotion from Weber State University. She has been working in the Child Advocacy Department at Primary Children’s for almost 2 years. She is a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, and loves the opportunity she has to help educate others about injury prevention. Whitney loves to read, travel, and spend time with her family.
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Youth Suicide Prevention: Information that Can Help Save a Life

suicidepreventionby Sara Jackson, LCSW
Center for Safe & Healthy Families

Youth suicide has unfortunately become a pressing matter in the past few years. With the increased stresses that youth face, some consider suicide because they simply do not know how to ease their pain. In fact, according to the International Association for Suicide Prevention, “Every year, over 800,000 people die from suicide; this roughly corresponds to one death every 40 seconds.”

Although the numbers are heart-wrenching, you can make a difference. Just talking to someone, lending a shoulder to cry on or showing your support can save a life.

Below are some signs that someone may be at risk:

  • Withdrawing from friends, family or community
  • Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means to harm oneself
  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Acting angry or seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities
  • Increase in alcohol or drug use
  • Seeing no reason for living or feeling no sense of purpose in life
  • Feeling anxious or agitated
  • Changes in sleep habits – with the inability to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Talking about wanting to hurt or kill one’s self
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes
  • Taking little interest or pleasure in doing things more than half the time

If you notice these symptoms in someone or are concerned that someone you know may be at risk of attempting suicide, don’t delay or ignore your concerns. Seek help right away.

Here are some ways to get help:

  • Call 911
  • Call or go to your nearest emergency room
  • Call your family doctor and ask for help
  • Call a crisis hotline:
    • Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
    • National Suicide Hope Line: 1-800-784-2433
    • NAMI Utah: 1-801-323-9900 or 1-877-230-6264
    • Para la Prevención de Suicidio: 1-888-628-9454

Remember, even just checking with someone to see how they are doing can save a life. Be proactive and voice your concerns to keep your loved ones safe and healthy.

Additional Resources:

About Teen Suicide (info for parents)

My Friend is Talking About Suicide (article for teens)

Sara graduated with her Master’s in Social Work from Portland State University and moved to Salt Lake City in 2012. Since then, she has been working with Safe & Healthy Families and has been enjoying all that the Southwest has to offer. In her free time, she loves hiking, biking, running, taking her dogs to the park, speaking Spanish, learning about other cultures, cooking, and baking.

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