From July 4th fireworks to driving, Loyola trauma chief cautions that summer is the deadliest time of the year for teens
MAYWOOD, Ill. - Summer is the season of backyard barbecues, scenic drives through the countryside and heat-relieving dips in the pool.
For all of its fun, though, summer is also the time when you're most likely to suffer an injury, especially if you're a teenager, said Dr. Thomas Esposito, professor or surgery and chief of the division of trauma, department of surgery at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood.
"We do see an increase in injuries to all age groups but particularly to teens during the summer months," said Esposito, who is also the director, division of trauma, surgical critical care and burns. "We see an increase associated with the fact that there are many events in the summer to celebrate that often manifests itself in risky behavior."
Short of following them around all day and night, there are some very practical steps parents can take to make their teens safer this summer, Esposito said, including:
* Have open and honest discussions with your teens in an effort to impart good life and risk-reduction skills. It's important that you make them understand that it's not just the teen down the street that gets into trouble, killed or injured -- the next tragedy could very well involve them. The sooner and more often you have these conversations, the better off your teen will be in the long run.
* Practice what you preach and be the example for safe, responsible living. Parents' behavior and activities, whether that's wearing a safety belt, drinking responsibly or not engaging in illicit drug use, tend to be transmitted to their children.
* In 2007, 125 people were injured by fireworks in Illinois, according to the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshall. Injuries included loss of sight and hearing, dismemberments, severe burns, fractures and lacerations, so it's important to discourage your teen from using them. These include bottle rockets, sparklers and firecrackers, all of which are capable of causing severe injuries to users. Leave the fireworks to experts and take the entire family out to see one of the many professional displays that will be taking place in communities throughout the state.
* Be especially aware that summer is the season when the most teen drivers are injured and killed in car crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As a parent of a young driver, you should set some firm ground rules for your teenager. Tell them what you expect and clearly spell out the consequences if they fail to meet those expectations. Insist that they remain within the speed limit at all times and observe curfews. Know their friends' driving habits and don't let your newly licensed teen ferry around other teenage passengers, which can increase their chances of a crash. Also, tell your teen to keep the volume on their radio/disc player low and advise against text messaging or talking on a cell phone while driving. If your teen violates any of those rules, be prepared to take away their keys and get them a bus pass.
* Since idle time can lead to riskier behavior on teens' part, it's important that you get them involved in some safe activities. Help them line up a job in a relatively safe environment. Signing them up for sporting activities (basketball or baseball camps, for instance) is another relatively safe bet.
* Whether it's a river, pool, lake or beach, your teens should be taught water safety. Counsel them to never swim alone and stay in depths that are within their skill level. You should also encourage them to swim only in areas where life guards are present and to avoid dangerous horseplay. If your teenager can't swim, the summer is an excellent time to enroll him or her in some lessons.
"No matter what season, injuries aren't accidents. They are really risks that are unrecognized, unheeded or poorly managed," Esposito said. "This summer, have fun but recognize the risks of some behaviors and the reality that it can happened to you."
Esposito's research interests revolve around the epidemiology of injury, trauma care analysis, evaluation of injury prevention strategies and trauma systems. To schedule an interview, contact Perry Drake in the media relations division of Loyola at (708) 216-7940, on his cell phone at (708) 441-7736 or call (708) 216-9000 and have him paged.