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Holiday Weekend Will See Rise in Underage Drinking, ER Visits

Fourth of July a cause for concern for parents of underage kids.

Holiday weekends like the Fourth of July are often cause for cookouts and celebrations with family and friends. But that could spell trouble for underage kids, especially boys.

According to a recent study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, underage males visit the emergency room twice as much during the Fourth of July weekend than at any time during the rest of the month.

The study analyzed national government statistics from 2009, and found that emergency rooms in the United States saw a daily average of more than 940 visits related to underage drinking throughout the holiday weekend of July 3-5, 2009. Two-thirds of those visits were from boys.

Jonathan Landis, MD, medical director of 's Department of Emergency Medicine, can attest.

"We do see a spike in visits from underage males due to motor vehicle and motorcycle accidents, fights and injuries that are mainly due to falls," Dr. Landis said. "The types of injuries we see are primarily broken bones, cuts, and even death."

According to Dr. Landis, the cause for the spike could be that people have time off from work and school, the weather in the area is usually warm, and people want to get out and have a good time.

"Kids have easier access to alcohol because of all of the parties that take place during the holiday," Dr. Landis explained. "They assume that a six-pack of beer will not be missed. As a result, there is a lot of binge drinking taking place. Kids have an access to the alcohol during the holiday weekend that they normally would not have." 

Although boys typically get into fights and are involved in motor vehicle accidents, girls are not completely guilt-free.

"The underage girls who we see in the emergency room are typically intoxicated and hysterical, and need to be watched and calmed down, or they are intoxicated and unconscious," Dr. Landis said.

There are several short-term complications that result from too much drinking, according to Dr. Landis. Dehydration and faulty judgement, which can lead to sexually premiscuity, and ultimately the transmission of STDs, are just a couple.

"Parents are advised to keep close tabs on their alcohol and liquor content," Dr. Landis said. "If a problem results from their child drinking too much, they may assess in their mind why it happened, but should refrain from discipline until the child is sober and can understand the situation better."

Studies have shown that parents who keep alcohol and liquor in the house are more likely to have kids who drink, according to Dr. Landis. Other studies have suggested that the earlier in life a child drinks, the more likely he or she is to become an alcoholic.

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