News Releases

News Releases

For Immediate Release

Understanding the Unknown and Calming Fears a Year After September 11, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Offers Experts

As the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks approaches, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh experts continue to help families deal with the fear and anxiety many have felt since that devastating day.

Children’s Hospital experts can offer information on everything from the symptoms of an anthrax attack to how a parent should discuss the anniversary with their child.

The Pittsburgh Poison Center at Children’s Hospital, like poison centers throughout the country, is an unrealized asset in these efforts. Experts at poison centers would be at the forefront of responding to biological or chemical attacks and would be among the first agencies to receive calls from victims reporting symptoms from such an attack.

What makes Children’s poison center unique is that its staff is trained to recognize potential signs of an attack and respond appropriately. The poison center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is staffed by clinical, medical and specialty toxicologists who would be able to assist people with appropriate information during an attack.

“This is where the public will turn if there’s a biological or chemical event,” said Dr. Edward Krenzelok, the poison center’s director. “In my mind, the one place they’ll have 24-hour access to, and the place they’ll get good information from are poison centers.”

To prevent panic, Krenzelok also recommends that parents help their children keep perspective during these times of crisis. Druken drivers kill more than 40,000 people annually; influenza, about 20,000; and carbon monoxide poisonings, about 5,000. By contrast, anthrax attacks perpetrated through the mail in the last year killed five, Krenzelok notes.

As a hospital that cares for thousands of children across the region and nation each year, Children’s experts also have developed tips – available on the hospital’s Web site, at – for parents, teachers, teens and adolescents about ways to cope with that acts of terrorism we experienced a year ago and the upcoming anniversary.

Children’s also has experts in its Child and Family Counseling Center that guide families through tragedies such as September 11, as well as the anniversary of such a horrifying event.
Children’s counselors have developed tips – available on the hospital’s Web site – for parents about ways to cope with fears and anxiety relating to terrorism.

The tips offer parents and caregivers the latest advice and most appropriate ways to discuss the anniversary of this national tragedy with young ones. Children’s experts recommend that parents be honest with their children, but do not overexpose them to media.

Other recommendations include:

  • Spend more time with your children in times of crisis.
  • Let your feelings show.
  • Maintain a balance. Anxiety can be “contagious,” especially for young children.
  • Limit a child’s access to news reports about terrorism and violence that can be disturbing.
  • Allow children to talk directly and openly about their reactions to the news reports they do see. Acknowledge their feelings, which can range from fear and sadness to confusion. Reassure them that you will help keep them safe and that teachers will help keep them safe at school. Also reassure them that police, fire and other government officials are working to protect them.

The anniversary of Sept. 11 potentially could be traumatizing to children.

“It is important for parents to reassure their children that this is something we are remembering. It is over,” said Phil Phelps, director of the Child and Family Counseling Center at Children’s. “It’s important to reassure children that the danger from this event has passed, and that we are remembering it because it was such a sad day for all of us.”

The anniversary may be particularly difficult for children who are experiencing separation anxiety because it is so close to the start of the school year, Phelps said.

But preschool children may not remember the original tragedy and experience media coverage of the anniversary as it if were happening now. Early school-age children may have some memory of the attacks, but believe it is happening again. And even school-age children may understand it is an anniversary but re-experience the anxiety and fear they felt last year.

Children’s Web site even offers parents advice on when to seek professional help with children who are having such problems.

To arrange interviews on any of these topics, or with any Children’s experts, please call the Public and Government Affairs Department at 412-692-5016.

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5016,

Last Update
June 17, 2008
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Last Update
June 17, 2008