MAYWOOD, Ill. – Summer is the season of backyard barbecues, scenic drives through the countryside and cool dips in the pool.
For all of its fun, though, summer is also when you’re most likely to suffer an injury, especially if you’re a teenager, said Dr. Thomas Esposito, a trauma surgeon at Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Ill.
“We see an increase in injuries to all age groups but particularly to teens during the summer months,” said Esposito, who is also chief of the Division of Trauma, Surgical Critical Care and Burns in the Department of Surgery at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “That increased rate is associated with the fact that there are many events in the summer to celebrate that often contribute to risky behavior.”
Short of continuously chaperoning them 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 about good risk-reduction skills. 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.
Practice what you preach and be the example for safe, responsible living. Children tend to emulate parents’ behavior and activities, whether it’s wearing safety belts, drinking responsibly or not engaging in illicit drug use.
Since idle time can lead to riskier teen behavior, get them involved in some safe activities. Help them line up a job in a relatively safe environment or sign them up for sporting activities (basketball or baseball camps, for instance), which are another relatively safe bet.
Last year fireworks injured 135 people in Illinois, according to the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal, so it’s important to discourage your teen from using them. Keep in mind that many communities this year will forgo professional firework displays, which traditionally have been the safest way to enjoy them.
Most teen drivers are injured and killed in summer car crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As a parent, you should set some firm ground rules for your teenager. Tell your teen what you expect and clearly spell out the consequences if your expectations are not met. Tell teens to drive within the speed limit and insist that they observe curfews. Know their friends’ driving habits and don’t let your newly licensed teen ferry around other teenage passengers, which can increase the chances of a crash. Also, tell your teen to keep the volume on their radio/disc player low and demand there be no text messaging or talking on a cell phone while driving. If your teen violates any of those rules, be prepared to replace the keys to the family car with a bus pass.
Whether it’s a river, pool, lake or beach, your teens should be taught water safety. Counsel them to never swim alone and to stay in depths that are within their skill level. You should also encourage them to swim only in areas where lifeguards are present and to avoid dangerous horseplay. If your teenager can’t swim, the summer is an excellent time to take 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 happen to you.”
Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, Loyola University Health System is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and 22 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus, Loyola University Hospital, is a 569-licensed-bed facility. It houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus in Melrose Park includes the 264-bed community hospital, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness and the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Care Center.