Your Teen

4 Dangerous Teen Trends Parents Should Know

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When kids get together they not only share the latest gossip or fashions, but also dangerous trends.

Children in middle school and high school are sharing videos of kids their age doing incredibly perilous activities and many times, their parents don’t have a clue.

Today, parents need to know what kinds of influences their kids are being inundated with. The types of trends that are gaining in popularity aren’t necessarily the ones that your child will easily divulge.

As the school year reconnects students and introduces new peers into the mix, pre-teens and teens-in search of recognition-are either doing or considering doing some seriously stupid things.

We know that kids in this age group act out impulsively with little thought given to consequences. There’s a scientific reason for this type of behavior.

Brain scans reveal that the frontal lobes, used in making critical and objective decisions, do not mature until about age 25.

Since the brain is still developing, choices teens make can be strongly influenced by peer pressure, a need to stand out among others and intense emotional feelings. A pre-teen or adolescent’s decision making may become overwhelmed by their immature circuitry.

While you may think your child would never do something truly dangerous, he or she may surprise you.

Here are four popular trends that parents need to be aware of:

The Fire Challenge: This one is particularly dangerous. Teens are taking the “fire challenge.” They are dousing themselves in flammable liquids, lighting it and — in theory —extinguishing it before being seriously injured, while recording the act and then sharing the video on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Yes, our kids are recording themselves being engulfed in flames, flailing and screaming in pain. 

There are thousands of the videos circulating and injuries have included severe burns and hospitalization. Officials around the country, along with the American Burn Association, are asking parents to warn their child about the game.

Many parents just can’t believe their child would actually do something like this, but even “good” kids are taking the challenge. Be sure and talk to your child about these types of videos and persuade them not to share or promote them with friends.

Synthetic Pot or Spice: Also called “Scooby snacks,” “K2,” or any of half a dozen other names, teens might consider this an “alternative” to pot, but it’s dangerously more potent. These “synthetic cannabinoids” consist of dozens of chemicals manufactured in China, Eastern Europe and American labs.

The drug looks like potpourri or lawn clippings. The pieces have been sprayed or soaked with a solution of designer chemicals.

 Because of the popularity of these drugs, there has been an explosion of ER visits related to Spice or K2 over the past few years. There’s been a reported death in California of a 19 year –old that took one after he took just one hit of Spice. So if you hear your kids talking about it, know that despite the name, the only thing that is being cooked here is your teen’s brain.  

Dirty Sprite: Although this may sound like a soda that’s got dirt on it- it’s much more insidious than that. When you hear a reference to “Dirty Sprite,”. Kids are talking about the latest teen party drink. It’s also called “Drank” or “”Lean.” It’s a combination of Sprite, candy (usually Jolly Ranchers) and prescription drugs or codeine cough syrup.

There are YouTube videos of teens creating the concoction, and even sweatshirts with the recipe printed on it.

Experts warn that Dirty Sprite can be addictive and tell parents that it’s best to keep prescription meds locked up, as well as discarding ones that have expired. If you think that it won’t help to talk to your kids about prescription drug abuse, you’re wrong. Children who learn a lot about the risks of drugs are up to 50 percent less likely to use them, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

Texting and Walking or Driving:  Every year a new batch of teens is behind the wheel, especially once school begins.  Never stop reminding your teen of the dangers of texting and driving. They may roll their eyes or give you the typical “I get it mom (dad)” response, but repeated warnings stick in the mind. A recent study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health found that among teens, 25 percent reported responding to a text message at least once every time they drive, and 20 percent admitted to holding multi-message conversations.

Since videos are one way that other dangerous trends are spread, you can share more valuable videos by showing your teen stories that show the outcomes of teens’ texting and driving. They act as a third-party negotiator that makes the point clearly.

But perhaps the best type of parental influence is to just be a good role model. Sadly, adults are the biggest offenders of texting and driving. The “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude never brings about the desired results.

It's not just driving, either. Pedestrian injuries among 16 to 19-year olds have been increasing and the death rate among older teens is at least twice that of younger kids, according to SafeKids.com. It's unclear how many of those are because of mobile devices, but it's worth reminding your teen, "eyes up while walking." 

These are only four of the most dangerous trends this year. Kids are often too afraid to say no to their peers. As parents, it’s our job to teach them how and to report what they are seeing and hearing from other teens.

Research, open communication and reminders are essential to helping your child understand that these are not the sort of activities that will bring a brighter, happier or healthier future.

Source: Kavita Varma-White, http://www.today.com/parents/fire-challenge-spice-4-things-parents-should-get-clue-about-2D80183586

Your Teen

Concussions May Affect Kid’s Academic Performance

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Can a concussion affect your child ‘s academic performance? According to a new study it might, depending on two factors - the severity of the concussion and the grade level of your child.

A concussion is a brain injury caused by a fall or blow, jolt or bump to the head that causes the brain and head to move back and forth rapidly. While most recover from mild concussions quickly, the young and the elderly can have symptoms that last for days or weeks.

Researchers from the Children's National Health System, George Washington University School of Medicine and Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University studied 349 students ages 5 to 18 to find out what happened to their academic performance after concussions. They divided the students into those who were continuing to experience problems following head injuries and those who were fully recovered, and asked the students and their parents to fill out questionnaires about their academic performance.

The study found that the severity of the concussion symptoms was directly related to the degree of academic problems among all grade levels. Eighty-eight percent of the children who were not fully recovered still had problems with concentration, headaches and fatigue. Seventy-seven percent of those same children had problems taking notes and found themselves spending more time on homework and having problems studying for exams and quizzes.

High school students reported having the most learning problems, significantly more than middle or elementary school children.

The authors say that their findings suggest that school systems and medical professionals should be working together to support students who are still in the recovery phase.

"Our findings suggest that these supports are particularly necessary for older students, who face greater academic demands relative to their younger peers," the study's authors say.

The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be subtle and may not be immediately apparent. Symptoms can last for days, weeks or even longer.

The Mayo Clinic says that common symptoms after a concussive traumatic brain injury are headache, loss of memory (amnesia) and confusion. The amnesia, which may or may not follow a loss of consciousness, usually involves the loss of memory of the event that caused the concussion.

Signs and symptoms of a concussion may include:

•       Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head

•       Temporary loss of consciousness

•       Confusion or feeling as if in a fog

•       Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event

•       Dizziness or "seeing stars"

•       Ringing in the ears

•       Nausea

•       Vomiting

•       Slurred speech

•       Delayed response to questions

•       Appearing dazed

•       Fatigue

Some symptoms of concussions may be immediate or delayed in onset by hours or days after injury, such as:

•       Concentration and memory complaints

•       Irritability and other personality changes

•       Sensitivity to light and noise

•       Sleep disturbances

•       Psychological adjustment problems and depression

•       Disorders of taste and smell

Symptoms in infants and toddlers can be difficult to recognize because these little ones are unable to communicate how they feel. However, there are nonverbal clues of a possible concussion. These are:

•       Appearing dazed

•       Listlessness and tiring easily

•       Irritability and crankiness

•       Loss of balance and unsteady walking

•       Crying excessively

•       Change in eating or sleeping patterns

•       Lack of interest in favorite toys

Concussions should always be treated seriously even when a child doesn’t seem to be showing physical or mental symptoms. If you suspect your child may have a concussion seek a professional diagnosis to make sure.

Sources: Sandee LaMotte, http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/11/health/concussions-academic-problems/index.html

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/concussion/basics/symptoms/con-20019272

Your Teen

E-Cigarette Use Among Teens Triples in One Year

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Marketing for e-cigarette use among teens and middle school students seems to be paying off.

A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, says that nearly 2.5 million middle and teen high school students are choosing to “vape.” That number represents a tripling of students using e-cigarettes from 2013 to 2014 according to the report.

E-cigarette popularity among teens has now surpassed all other tobacco products including cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco, the reports notes.

Dr. Tom Frieden, the Director of the CDC, calls the increase in teen and middle school student e-cigarette use “deeply alarming.”

"We're seeing a striking increase. It's very concerning," Frieden said during a media briefing. "It more than counterbalances the decrease in cigarette smoking which we've seen over the last few years."

Many proponents of e-cigarettes say they are a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes because they do not include many of the harsh ingredients that have been shown to cause lung cancer such as tar and cigarette paper chemicals.

However, they do include nicotine, which has its own set of side effects.

The brains of pre-teens and teenagers are still in a state of growth and development.  Addiction is a primary concern as well as the long-term effects nicotine can have on the developing brain.

According to Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine, a monthly online journal with contributions from scientists and physicians, nicotine can have long-reaching side effects:

•       Teens do not have the brain development or emotional maturity to realize that their nicotine use impacts their health or to acknowledge the effects of nicotine dependence, and often overestimate their ability to quit whenever they choose.

•       Because teenagers' brains are still developing, their brains are particularly vulnerable to the effects of nicotine, which can in turn impair them for life. Specifically, the prefrontal cortex area of the brain is affected. Teen's developing brains are particularly sensitive and experience more of a rush from nicotine than older adults and become dependent upon it more quickly.

•       With long-term use, nicotine can damage the areas of memory, cognition, and emotions that can last indefinitely through their adult lives.

This means that teens who are regular users of nicotine are at higher risk for cognitive reasoning impairment, attention deficits, and developing mental disorders such as depression, phobias, addictions, and antisocial personality.

The new CDC survey, shows e-cigarette use among high school students increased from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014, rising from approximately 660,000 to 2 million students.

Among middle school students, e-cigarette use more than tripled from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014, an increase from approximately 120,000 to 450,000 students.

Hookahs also have grown in popularity, the CDC found. Hookah smoking roughly doubled for teens, rising from about 890,000 middle and high school students in 2013 to nearly 1.6 million in 2014.

Health experts agree that more research is needed to look into the long-term effects of the chemicals used to create the vapor in e-cigarettes.

Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is considering regulating e-cigarettes as they do traditional tobacco products.

It may or may not be a coincidence that both marketing for e-cigarettes and teen use of e-cigarettes has tripled. Companies can advertise e-cigarettes on TV, even though commercials for cigarettes were banned in 1971. 

According to a study published last November in the journal Pediatrics, E-cigarette commercials increased 256 percent between 2011 and 2013, and more than three-fourths of teens' exposure to e-cigarette ads happened on cable channels. AMC aired the most, followed by Country Music Television and Comedy Central.

These ads are not designed to encourage teens to stop smoking, but instead to start vaping.

Should e-cigarettes regulation comes under the control of the FDA, advertising on TV most likely will stop. But by then it may be too little, too late.

Sources: Dennis Thompson, http://consumer.healthday.com/cancer-information-5/tobacco-and-kids-health-news-662/e-cigarette-use-triples-among-u-s-teens-in-1-year-698513.html

Kirsten Schuder, http://addiction.lovetoknow.com/smoking/effects-e-cigarettes-teenagers

Julia Glum, http://www.ibtimes.com/teens-smoking-e-cigarettes-marketing-may-be-blame-increase-number-vaping-high-school-1724105

Your Teen

Acne Gel Linked to Rare Side Effect

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Nearly all teens will get acne at one time or another. For those that get severe acne, it can be devastating to their self-esteem. While acne isn’t a serious health problem, it’s not something that is easy to hide.

For a lot of teens, over-the–counter face washes and drying agents help keep acne under control. For more serious acne, families often turn to a dermatologist for prescription medicine.

In certain people, Aczone- the skin gel version of the drug Dapzone -may lead to a rare blood disorder called methemoglobinemia according to a new study.

That’s what a 19 year-old female in Pittsburgh was using to treat her acne before she entered the emergency room with a headache, shortness of breath, and blue lips and fingers. At first, her doctors were at a loss as to what was causing her condition.

The patient had been using a “pea-size” amount of Aczone on her face twice daily during the previous week and didn’t think to tell the doctors about it when questioned about any medications she was taking.

"We went over all her meds and herbal supplements," said Dr. Greg Swartzentruber, a medical toxicology fellow at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "And we couldn't come up with a cause, even after interviewing her and her family. Aczone was just never mentioned."

Topical medicines can have systemic adverse effects on people, but many patients don’t think about topical creams or gels when asked about medications they are on by their doctor.

The study authors noted that prior research has shown that Dapsone pills, in very rare instances, can trigger methemoglobinemia, the abnormal production of a red blood cell protein that delivers oxygen throughout the body.

But the current case appears to be the first time that this condition has been associated with Aczone, the skin gel version of Dapsone, they said.

Dapzone pills have been available for decades and were once used to treat leprosy. In 2005, the FDA approved Aczone - the 5 percent topical cream – for acne treatment use. Dapzone and Aczone have been very effective for treating acne.

However, if someone has the rare genetic defect that makes it impossible to properly metabolize the drugs, it can cause serious health problems.

"The blood cells blow up, basically," said Dr. Darrell Rigel, a clinical professor of dermatology with New York University Medical Center in New York City. Rigel added. "The prevalence of this deficiency is very low. Maybe it affects less than 1 percent of the population, but those that have it can end up with serious problems."

Doctors were finally able to diagnose the young woman’s illness through a urine test. She was successfully treated and released from the hospital after two days.

Rigel noted that dermatologists who prescribe Aczone have a responsibility to always screen patients for this issue. "And patients have to know that when they're asked to give their drug history they can't forget their topicals," he said.

The young woman’s case was described in a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Source: Alan Mozes, http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/news/20150129/acne-gel-linked-to-rare-side-effect-doctors-warn

Your Teen

Stimulant Chewing Gum Can Be Dangerous For Kids

Stimulant chewing gum can be dangerous for children if used excessively warn doctors.Stimulant chewing gum can be dangerous for children if used excessively warn doctors who wrote a case report about a teenage boy who was hospitalized after chewing a large amount of the caffeine-containing gum. The case involved a 13-year-old boy from Italy who was taken to the hospital after his family noticed he was agitated and aggressive. The boy also complained of abdominal discomfort, increased and painful urination and prickling sensations in his legs.

ER doctors found the boy had a rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing and elevated blood pressure. His blood tests were normal and he tested negative for drugs. The boy spent the night in the hospital and was sent home the next morning with the only unusual symptom being a slow heartbeat. Doctors later learned that the boy had consumed two packets of stimulant chewing gum within a four-hour period. The two packs of gum contained the caffeine equivalent of three regular cups of coffee or 320 milligrams of caffeine. Doctors said the boy met the criteria for diagnosis of caffeine intoxication. "Our patient presumably had high caffeine sensitivity in view of his low habitual caffeine intake, so 320mg was a substantial amount of caffeine," wrote Francesco Natale of the Second University of Naples and Monaldi Hospital in Naples. "It was unlikely that other ingredients of the chewing gum played a part in this case, because their doses were low or they would include different signs and symptoms from those found in our patient. The use of stimulant chewing gum should be considered in cases of caffeine intoxication. The risk of intoxication is high in children and teenagers in view of general caffeine-naivety and the unrestricted sale of these substances," the authors concluded.

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Your Teen

Youth Using Smokeless Tobacco and Cigarettes Together

2.00 to read

While watching my favorite American League Baseball team on TV last night I was surprised to see the pitcher chewing tobacco. It appeared to be quite a mouthful. Yes, spitting is probably as old as baseball, but for some reason I thought most of the players had switched to gum or sun flower seeds.

A few days before the pitching episode I was at my local small town market. The man in front of me was buying 4 boxes of Copenhagen. Once he made his purchase he handed over 2 of the boxes to a young man who appeared to be about 16 or 17 and said “you owe me son.” They both laughed and walked out of the store.  

It made me cringe to see a really unhealthy habit being passed down from one generation to the next.

It seems that smokeless tobacco is still popular and a new study shows that most young people in the U.S. who use smokeless tobacco also continue to smoke cigarettes.  They’re not actually replacing one habit with another; they’re doubling up.

"These findings are troubling, but not surprising, as tobacco companies spend huge sums to market smokeless tobacco in ways that entice kids to start and encourage dual use of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco," Vince Willmore, vice president of communications at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization, told Reuters Health in an email.

"From 1998 to 2011, total marketing expenditures for smokeless tobacco increased by 210 percent - from $145.5 million to $451.7 million a year, according to the Federal Trade Commission," he added.

Another type of smokeless tobacco making the rounds is the Swedish-style “Snus” packet. They started showing up in the states around 2006. The packets are reportedly less harmful than conventional chewing tobacco because they contain fewer nitrosamines, and have been promoted as safer alternatives. They haven’t exactly caught on a lot, but they are gaining a little every year in popularity. Public health experts are concerned that these types of products get kids hooked on nicotine and can lead to switching to traditional smokeless tobacco and / or cigarettes.

To better understand the prevalence of smokeless tobacco use among young people, Dr. Gregory Connolly of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and his colleagues looked at data from the 2011 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which included nearly 19,000 sixth- to 12th-graders from across the country.

Overall, the researchers found, 5.6 percent of young people reported using any type of smokeless tobacco. Five percent used chewing tobacco, snuff or dip, just under two percent used Snus and 0.3 percent used dissolvable products.

Among young people who were current smokeless tobacco users, about 72 percent reported smoking cigarettes too, while almost 81 percent of young people who used only Snus or dissolving packets were also smoking cigarettes.

Unfortunately, only about 40 percent of the kids said they were contemplating quitting tobacco products according to findings published in the journal Pediatrics.

"We found higher current use than we expected. It's just not experimentation, it looks like it's taken hold among adolescents," Connolly told Reuters Health.

"The most distressing finding was that this is not resulting in children or in young adolescents switching from smoking to these new products that may or may not be safer when used alone. They're using both in very high numbers."

Advertisers are looking for new customers as more and more older Americans are quitting the smoking and chewing habit.  Amazing how 20 or 30 years of smoking will get your attention when you can’t get through a day without coughing and wheezing. And for those who have spent a lifetime chewing, the appearance of stained lips, gum disease and rotting teeth make the idea of putting away the smokeless tobacco a real possibility.

Pre-teens, teenagers and young adults don’t think about those things. They pretty much live in the moment and when they watch their sports heroes, family members and peers lighting up or chewing tobacco they think about the long-term consequences even less. The tobacco industry knows this and they know that their future depends on recruiting a new group of people, preferably young ones, to carry on the tradition of rebelling by sneaking a cigarette or a wad of tobacco between the cheek and gums.

The good news is that teens are actually smoking less these days than in the past. It may be because the cost of tobacco products is now sky high or maybe they just don’t like the smell and taste. It’s a step in the right direction and one that needs to be encouraged.

I hope the baseball pitcher and the man buying chewing tobacco for his son stop and think about the strong influence they have over the young kids who look up to them.

Source: Anne Harding,  http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/08/us-smokeless-tobacco-idUSBRE97...

Your Teen

U.S. Teen's Heart and Breathing Fitness Declines

2.00 to read

How’s your teen’s cardiorespiratory fitness? Cardiorespiratory fitness means the body’s heart and lungs function properly when participating in demanding exercise or activity. Cardiorespiratory fitness measures maximal oxygen uptake, also known as VO2max. This is the greatest capacity of the body to use oxygen during exercise.

A low level of cardiorespiratory endurance is associated with an elevated risk of premature death from all causes. High cardiorespiratory endurance is strongly protective against coronary artery disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States.

According to a new government report, today’s U.S. teen’s cardiorespiratory fitness is decreasing.

Using a specific measure, the researchers found that only about half of boys and one-third of girls between the ages of 12 and 15 had adequate levels of cardiorespiratory fitness. The overall percentage of fit teens went from 52.4 percent in 1999 to 42.2 percent in 2012, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Regardless of their age, it turns out that the boys had better cardiorespiratory fitness than girls. Researchers noted that as adolescent's weight increased, this measure of fitness declined.

A smaller percentage of overweight and obese young people had adequate levels of cardiorespiratory fitness than teens who maintained a normal weight. This is particularly significant, given that about one in five U.S. teens between the ages of 12 and 19 is obese.

Regular physical activity offers teens and children many extra benefits.

       Helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles.

       Helps reduce the risk of developing obesity and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colon cancer.

       Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety and promotes psychological well-being.

       May help improve students’ academic performance, including academic achievement and grades, concentration and task management.

If you’re concerned about your teen’s fitness level, talk to your pediatrician or family doctor about programs designed to specifically help teens get fitter.

Sources: Mary Elizabeth Dallas, http://consumer.healthday.com/fitness-information-14/misc-health-news-265/cardiorespiratory-fitness-among-u-s-teens-has-dropped-in-past-decade-report-688187.html

http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/physicalactivity/facts.htm

Your Teen

Summer Viruses Are Gearing Up

1.15 to read

Is it hot enough for you? Summer is here and will continue for a bit! Winter viruses are a distant memory (good bye flu and RSV), summer viruses which have been laying dormant are once again rearing their angry heads.

My office has been overflowing with really hot feverish kids of all ages.   I think the most likely culprit for much of the illness we are seeing right now is an enteroviral infection.  For some reason, it makes us parents feel better if we can “name that virus”, seems to help validate the illness.  

Enteroviral infections typically cause a non-specific febrile illness and with that you can see fairly high fever. In other words, just like the thermometer as summer heat arrives , 101-104 degrees of fever is not uncommon in these patients.  Remember the mantra, “fever is our friend”. I think it is almost worse to have a high fever in the summer as you are even more uncomfortable because it is already hot!

With that being said, if your child has a fever, don’t bundle them up with layers of clothes and blankets.  It is perfectly acceptable to have your younger child in a diaper and t-shirt, and older children can be in sundress or shorts rather than long sleeves and pants.  Bundling may increase the body temperature, even while you are driving to the doctor’s office. I often come into a room with a precious baby who is running a fever and they are wrapped in blankets, let them out! That hot body needs to breathe.

These summer enteroviruses may cause other symptoms as well as fever, so many kids right now seem to have sore throats and are also vomiting and having diarrhea. With this type of virus you also hear complaints of headaches and body aches (myalgias).  The kids I am seeing don’t look especially sick, but they do feel pretty yucky!  Just kind of wiped out, especially when their temps are up.

Besides treating their fevers, treat their other symptoms to make them comfortable.   If they are vomiting do not give them anything to eat and start giving them frequent sips of liquids such as Pedialyte (for the younger ones) and Gatorade or even Sprite or Ginger Ale. Small volumes are the key. 

I often use pieces of Popsicle or spoonfuls of a Slurpee to get fluids in kids. I always tried to pick drink colors for my own kids that were easier to clean up, in case they were going to vomit again, so no bright red!  The cold fluids may also help to soothe a sore throat. Once the vomiting has stopped, and it is usually no more than 12-24 hours, you can start feeding small amounts of food, but I would steer away from any dairy for a day or two. Again, nothing worse than thinking your child is over vomiting, fixing them I nice milkshake (comfort food) and seeing that thrown up!  Many a mother has come into my office wanting to strip after being vomited on, in a hot car no less.   I don’t think there is a car wash around that can fully get rid of that smell!

Most enteroviral infection last anywhere from 2-5 days. There are many different enteroviruses too, so you can get more than one infection during the season. This is not just a virus you see in children, so watch out parents you may succumb as well. Keep up good hand washing and your child should stay home from school, the pool, camp, day care etc. until they have been fever free for 24 hours. 

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Your Teen

Underage Drinking Deaths Not Just Traffic Related

2.00 to read

Because of all the publicity, you might naturally think that most underage drinking deaths are related to driving while intoxicated. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) wants parents to know that the dangers of underage drinking are even greater off the roadways.

MADD analyzed 2010 data from the FBI, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on deaths related to underage alcohol use.

What they found may surprise you. The study showed that only 32 percent of underage drinkers died from traffic related deaths. 68 percent were from other causes. Researchers found that 30 percent died from homicides, 14 percent from suicide, 9 percent from alcohol poisoning and 15 percent from “other” causes.

"As parents, we are definitely aware of the dangers of drinking and driving," says MADD national President Jan Withers. "I think we're not as educated about all the dangers that drinking before age 21 can be related to. And they're very, very real."

Child health experts agree that talking with your child about alcohol use should begin before they are at the age where temptation and availability are present. That can range anywhere from pre-teen to college age. It’s never too late to have that discussion.

Sometimes parents mistakenly believe that if a child is introduced to alcohol drinking in the home that it’s much safer for them. They believe that their kids are in a controlled environment and not on the road afterwards. But as the analysis shows, being on the road isn’t the only concern parents should be thinking and talking about.  

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that one-quarter of people ages 12-20 (9.7 million children) reported drinking within the previous month. Among those who did not illegally buy booze themselves, 21.4 percent were supplied alcohol from parents, guardians or other adult family members.

Bill Windsor, Nationwide Insurance’s associate vice president of consumer safety said "Parents think, 'If they do it here, they won't do it somewhere else,' " he says. "But that's just not the case. It's important for parents to know that there is a significant danger here and it goes deeper than just taking away the car keys."

Studies and surveys have shown that kids who drink do worse in school, get pregnant at higher rates, are more likely to carry out or be the victim of physical or sexual assault, engage is high risk behaviors, and have a higher frequency of alcoholism later in life.

On MADD’s website blog, Debbie Taylor writes about her decision to ignore a bottle of rum her teen-age son, Casey, had hidden in the garage. She knew he drank occasionally with his friends, but “put it off as ordinary teenage stuff.” She had already talked to him about drinking and driving, telling him the risks were too great. He seemed to understand and take it to heart.

Four months after she found the rum, he died of alcohol poisoning. He had been hanging out and drinking with his friends.

She writes on her blog, “If only I had talked with Casey about the dangers of underage drinking and told him that I didn’t want him drinking at all until he was 21!  I had blinders on when it came to alcohol, youth, peer influences and the dangers that come with the independent, recklessness and perceived invincibility of youth.  I had the illusion that outside influences weren’t a big factor—what they saw on TV or in the movies, or how friends or family could influence his actions.   The myths we tell ourselves—“we did it when we were young and nothing bad happened” and “it’s normal, everyone does it”, “it’s a rite of passage” or “it’s harmless experimentation and how else are they going to learn,” are all false!  We need to change our thinking and the drinking culture that is so prevalent in our communities”.

All the thoughts a grieving parent would have after such a tragedy.

Follow Debbie’s advice and have that important conversation with your own child about alcohol. Not just about drinking and driving but all the dangers associated with drinking. Keep having it until they understand. Kids are most influenced by two factors - peers and parents. Use that power to inform and influence your child’s thinking and actions. That’s all you can do. The rest is up to them.

 Sources: Larry Copeland, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/17/underage-drinking-madd-alcohol/2070405/

http://www.madd.org/blog/

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