LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The British Red Cross launched a campaign on Monday to teach 11-16 year-olds how to handle medical emergencies which arise from excessive drinking.
"Life. Live it," is a British Red Cross campaign to help young people learn life-saving skills so they can cope better in an emergency, the medical aid organization said in an statement on Monday.
It said it launched the campaign in response to statistics which showed that one in seven 11-16 year-old Britons has been in an emergency situation as a result of a friend drinking too much alcohol.
The Red Cross found in a new study that in the past 12 months 12 percent of 11-16 year olds have been left to cope with a drunken friend who was sick, injured or unconscious.
Half of these had to deal with someone who had passed out and a quarter had to cope with an injured friend who had been drunk and in a fight.
Young people do not have to deal with just alcohol-related injuries. Nearly nine in 10 have also had to cope in a crisis. Twenty seven percent dealt with someone having an asthma attack, 33 percent had to cope with a head injury victim, 18 percent helped someone choking and nine percent deal with someone having an epileptic fit.
When asked what actions they took in response to these situations, 44 percent said they panicked and 46 percent said they didn't know what to do.
"In recent years, the issue of young people drinking to excess has been a regular feature in the media but their vital role in saving lives when they and their friends find themselves in vulnerable situations generally has not been mentioned," Red Cross first aid expert Joe Mulligan said in a statement.
One in five 11-16 year olds have been drunk - and have been drunk on average three times in the past six months. One in three of those aged 14-16 drink most weekends, with this group drinking on average 11 units - the equivalent of seven and a half alcopops or four large cans of beer/cider.
Official figures show 7,475 youngsters under 15 years in England were admitted to hospital with conditions specifically linked to alcohol between 2006-2009.
Many more injuries will have been dealt with by young people themselves. Only one in 10 young people rang emergency and less than half contacted their parents when faced with coping with an injured, sick or unconscious friend.
A large number of young people who stepped in to help were left distressed as they were unsure whether they had done the correct thing.
Close to half were worried their friend would choke on their own vomit or wouldn't wake up and 82 percent said that they would feel safer if they had some first aid knowledge.
"We need to ensure that every young person - irrespective of whether they're drinking - has the ability and confidence to cope in a crisis," Mulligan said.
The British Red Cross is calling on parents to encourage their schools to use the Life.Liveit resources to teach first aid and to encourage young people to go online and learn vital life-saving skills. Information is available on www.redcross.org.uk/lifeliveitnow.
Reporting by Paul Casciato; editing by Patricia Reaney