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The biggest risk to a teenager's health isn't any single disease. The biggest risk comes from unintentional injuries. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), unintentional injuries are the most common cause of death for teens - and most of these injuries are preventable.
Alcohol and drugs play a big role in increasing a teen's risk of injury, because they lower inhibitions, increasing the willingness to take risks while decreasing the coordination and reaction time needed to respond to emergencies.
The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information says a teenager may drink for any number of reasons, including peer pressure, boredom, or depression. Teens are also susceptible to advertisements for beer and wine coolers. If a teen or parent is concerned about alcohol use or abuse, a school counselor or your healthcare provider should have information on getting professional help.
Perhaps the best time to seek information, however, is even earlier. The American Academy of Pediatrics says it's essential for parents to start talking to their children at an early age about the dangers of alcohol use or abuse. (Read about "Talking About Drug Abuse") Parents should also be aware of potential warning signs of drug use including behavior changes, sudden hostility, withdrawal from friends and family, or marked changes in school performance and attendance. (Read about "Anabolic Steroids")
Teens are also at a higher risk of injury on the road. In fact, AMA says three out of 10 teens that die are killed in motor vehicle crashes. Half of those crashes involve the use of drugs or alcohol. Young people are also at great risk for head injuries. The highest rate of traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs in 15-24 year olds, with males twice as likely as females to be injured, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Read about "Head Injury")
If a teen is just learning to drive, safety rules should be stressed regularly, including the use of seat belts for everyone in the car and on every trip, even short trips. Teens should also be aware of the way different driving conditions such as rain or ice can affect a vehicle's handling. Until new drivers have developed their skills sufficiently, the number of passengers in the car when they drive should be limited. And, since children and teens learn from what they see, parents should always set a good example themselves when it comes to following safety rules. (Read about "Car Safety")
One of the most important jobs for parents is setting rules for their children to follow as they grow up. To do so effectively means keeping the lines of communication open through the teenage years. Some suggestions on effective rule making from the U.S. Department of Education include:
By setting rules and teaching values throughout childhood, parents can help give their children the resources they need to make smart choices about their behavior and their health.
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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