Whether you're sending your child off to college for the first time, or you're a seasoned scholar, there are a few health issues you should know about before you say good-bye.
Does your college student know who to call if he needs to see a health care provider? Before you send him off to school, make sure his phone has these names and numbers:
- primary care provider/school clinic
Make sure your student is covered by health insurance and that she has a card with her at school. Double check your list of health care providers to make sure they still accept your insurance.
Even college-age adults need to be up to date on vaccinations; you might even want to check with your family doctor to see if any additional vaccines are needed, such as for meningitis. Also, go over with your student how common illnesses are spread and what to watch out for. A quick lesson on when to call a physician might make a world of difference, too.
Is your student's emergency contact information up to date with the resident advisor or school? If your student has severe allergies, you should tell the RA and even show them how to use an Epipen, just in case.
College is a time of huge changes, which can trigger episodes of anxiety or depression. Stress is also a major issue with many college students.
"There are resources and safety nets available at all universities," said Daniel Schnaar, M.D., a Beaumont pediatrician. "Many colleges have programs and hand out print material during orientation and in the first week of school outlining where students can reach out for mental health issues and physical health needs."
NUTRITION AND EXERCISE
You've heard of the "freshman 15." While eating ice cream for dinner every day might seem fun (and, hey, mom and dad aren't around, so why not?) but it can have a health impact.
"I often ask students to seek out the work out facilities convenient for them on campus," noted Dr. Schnaar. "Getting used to working out several times a week, eases stress, provides a venue to meet people , and it likely will ward off those 'freshman 15 ' pounds."
HAVE THE UNCOMFORTABLE TALK
Yes, you should go over safe sex, drugs (including vaping), STDs and birth control with your child. The Centers for Disease Control and prevention reports that half of the 20 million new sexually transmitted disease cases each year occur in people ages 15 to 24. While many of the more common STDs are treatable, but some can have life-long effects.
ANOTHER UNCOMFORTABLE TALK
Sadly, 37 percent of female rape victims were first raped between the ages of 18 and 24. Talk to your daughters and sons about their rights and where to go if they, or a friend, needs help.
Reinforce that sleep is a requirement, not an option. Only 11 percent of college students in a sample of 191 undergrads had good quality sleep, a 2001 study in the Journal of American College Health found.
Asking your college student to abstain from alcohol entirely isn't realistic. "What I want is for students to go to college with their eyes open about how dangerous over indulgence in alcohol can be, and to learn by watching what happens on campus to other students, and not let it happen to them," said Dr. Schnaar.