Prom prep: Health and safety tips for your teen
Prom season means glamorous attire, limousines and late curfews for many high school students. It’s also the perfect opportunity to talk with teens about health and safety concerns around this big night.
Jennifer Caudle, DO, an osteopathic family physician and associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, has advice on the health hazards associated with this traditional rite of passage.
Alcohol, drugs, sex
Teens partaking in illegal substances and risky behavior are among the biggest concerns for parents, who worry this milestone event could lead to adult consequences.
Prom is a perfect opportunity for parents to have conversations with their teenagers to reinforce what they believe is appropriate or inappropriate behavior, says Dr. Caudle. It also gives parents an opening to discuss sensitive topics like drinking, drug use and sex.
“The biggest thing is having the conversation and letting your kids know where you stand on these issues,” says Dr. Caudle. “Perhaps equally important, teens need to hear that you love them and worry about their safety and well-being.”
Some teenagers put so much pressure on themselves that they stress out about prom, Dr. Caudle notes. Whether it’s about how they look, if they’ll get asked to the dance or how they’ll pay for all the expenses, teens are facing very real pressures.
Prom is a perfect opportunity for parents to have conversations with their teenagers to reinforce what they believe is appropriate or inappropriate behavior.
Having a good support system of parents and friends is very important in this instance. Be sure that your teen is going to the dance with people they like and have things in common with, advises Dr. Caudle.
“I hope that teens don’t feel intimidated because they think they don’t have the right attire or hairstyle or whatever. The name of the game is to remember this is a celebratory event and a way to spend time with people you know and care about,” says Dr. Caudle. “It’s about enjoying the fellowship and fun of the evening.”
Everyone wants to look their best for a special occasion but some teens resort to extreme dieting to achieve their weight loss goals. This can be due to social pressures to conform to a specific body type or the much more extreme body dysmorphia disorder (BDD) in which a person obsesses about perceived body imperfections or appearance flaws. Symptoms of BDD typically begin during adolescence and the teen years.
Crash dieting should always be avoided, says Dr. Caudle. “We don’t want teens at prom with low blood pressure or low blood sugar. This can cause light-headedness, dizziness, irritability and just not feeling like yourself.”
The goal is to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle by making proper nutrition and exercise a priority. Exercise is a proven mood booster that will positively impact mental health.
Everyone wants to look their best for prom. Some teens choose to get their glow on at an indoor tanning bed. But exposing yourself to harmful UV rays that can increase your risk for skin cancer is a bad idea, says Dr. Caudle.
“I definitely advise against indoor tanning—or outdoor tanning—because of the harmful UV rays. There are other options, such as spray tans and other cosmetics to give your skin a sun-kissed glow,” says Dr. Caudle. “Tanning beds are not worth the risks, even for this one evening.”
High heels might look great, but they can be very uncomfortable and even downright harmful. A lot of people don’t think about the importance of shoes, says Dr. Caudle. Prom can start in the early evening and go late into the night, so it’s possible to be in your shoes for several hours.
“It’s important to break in your shoes. If you’re buying new shoes for prom or any special event, wear the shoes around the house,” advises Dr. Caudle. “Get used to them and get the bottom scuffed up enough so you won’t slip and slide on a slick surface. You want to make sure you don’t sprain an ankle or fall.”
Makeup, harmful cosmetics
Some people have allergies and sensitive skin, so it’s important to test drive prom cosmetics. If you want to wear false eyelashes, for example, make sure that you can tolerate the adhesives and that the lashes don’t otherwise irritate your eyes, advises Dr. Caudle.
“You don’t want the day of prom to be the first time you try something and then realize it’s bothersome, or you’re allergic,” says Dr. Caudle. “A full test run—shoes, attire, all of it—is a good idea and totally appropriate.”