Congratulations to parents of college-bound teens! This is an important stage of your teen’s transition to an independent young adult. For most parents the transition from child to young adult entails changes in the relationship and learning to let go. Below are some tips for you and your soon-to-be college freshman.
Schedule a well check with your physician before your teen leaves for college to make sure he or she is physically doing well and given anticipatory guidance. Sometimes blood tests may be done to check for anemia and hypercholesterolemia, which are recommended screenings. Some colleges require a tuberculin skin test (ppd) for screening for students living in college housing. Immunizations are important, and an up-to-date Tdap (diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough), meningitis vaccine (now 2 doses), and hpv (human papilloma virus) are recommended.
Most colleges offer flu shots in the fall and it is strongly recommended that your teen receives one. Please make sure you keep a copy of the immunization record. Most young women need to know how to perform a breast self exam and young men a testicular self exam. Some young women, especially if sexually active, should have a gyn visit prior to leaving for college.
Students with chronic medical illnesses (such as sickle cell disease or transplants) that require specialty care should have a specialist nearby to assume care rather than wait for an emergency to seek care. Student health should also be aware of any health issues. Please make sure your teen knows his medical history, allergies and medications he or she is taking.
Remember to take an adequate supply of your teen’s chronic or as-needed medications (such as asthma inhalers, ADD meds, etc.). Check with your pharmacy benefits company for availability of obtaining a 90-day supply of medication. It is also a good idea when possible to use a nationwide pharmacy with a chain at home and away at school so medications refills are readily available. Care should be taken for safekeeping of controlled substances such as stimulants for ADD and pain medications, especially living in a dormitory setting. A lockbox can be used to store these medications.
A medical kit with bandages, antiseptic, antibacterial ointment, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, a thermometer and, if desired, over the counter cold medications may come in handy. Most student health services are available for care. Discuss with your teen when to seek care for illness, such as fever greater than 101 degrees for more than 24 to 48 hours.
Your child needs a copy of his or her health insurance card. Please check with your insurance carrier to see if there are any restrictions on out of network care that applies to your plan. Most colleges require insurance coverage and provide some plans. Thanks to a provision in the Affordable Care Act, most young adults can remain covered on your insurance until age 26.
Performing well in college requires good nutrition with a balanced diet, no skipped meals, adequate sleep and exercise. Most illnesses are related to stress, poor nutrition and sleep deprivation. Continued good nutrition and exercise will help them to avoid the freshman 10 to 15 lb weight gain.
Students with special educational needs such as a learning disability, physical disability or ADD should have a 504 plan in place prior to leaving for college to address any special modifications that need to be made so that they may perform their academic best.
Have another discussion with your teen about sex, drug and alcohol use that most college students will have to confront. Most students will test values and experiment as a way of asserting independence, and due to peer pressure. Reiterate your family values and expectations. Responsible behavior can prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. Most colleges have policies also on underage drinking and drug use. Not only could drug and alcohol use have adverse health effects, but it could also have adverse effects on careers and lifetime goals.
Also discuss finances, budgeting and money management with your child. You may want to provide a low limit credit card to be used for emergencies only or some other form of money that can be used for unplanned events. Sometimes utilizing a joint account at a bank with a branch in your home and college town is a convenient way to add funds to your student’s account as needed.
Discuss personal safety on and off campus with your teen and make sure they secure expensive computers , electronics and important items .Keeping the dorm room locked is a good way to keep items from getting stolen.
Homesickness and roommate problems are issues most teens experience in college life. Keeping in contact frequently and offering support will usually get them through this adjustment period. Remind them all living arrangements require give and take, compromise. Hopefully the aforementioned tips will help ease the transition from child to young adult. For more information, visit www.EsseHealth.com.
By Pediatrician Shirley M. Knight, M.D.