Friday, August 17, 2007

Got A Kid Going To College? Here's Some Health Tips

If college is in your child's future then there are some health-related issues that you need to address.

First, I know that there are folks out there who have a definite stance regarding vaccinations. You should be aware that most colleges have vaccination policies and some simply will not allow you to enroll if you do not get the required vaccinations. Meningitis and Tuberculosis are diseases that are usually at issue, especially since college dormitories living areas are in such close quarters. My point being that if you have issues with vaccinating then you need to check the health policies at the colleges that you may be considering and find out what, if any, exemptions they allow. Some colleges follow their own policies and others follow their state law.

As far as other health issues, I think it is really important that you check out the college’s health center, and find out what procedures are in place for medical emergencies. Should your child ever need medical assistance while away at school then you need to have some piece of mind about the type of care that is accessible. You should check your own insurance policies to see what kind of coverage your teenager has and if (s)he needs additional coverage then you should make arrangements.

It is also of utmost importance that your teenager knows how to take care of himself. If they are moving out of your house and going away to school, they should have on hand a first aid kit to keep in their dorm room, and a good book describing illnesses and their symptoms and what to do for those illnesses. It is wise to go over with your child what to do in case of the flu, or stomach ailments and other health problems that they are prone to. Most kids are fairly familiar with what Dr. Mom (or Dad) does when an illness comes along, but it is good for you to go over what medications or remedies they should use and the appropriate dosages.

It might also be worthwhile for your child to take a first aid course as well as a CPR course. They should be familiar what to do in case of emergencies and be able to help themselves as well as others.

When they do move into a dormitory or some other on-campus housing they should make sure they are aware of fire exits and make sure smoke alarms are in working order. There have been enough campus fires to warrant that advice.
Hopefully, by now your child has had healthy food choices drummed into him, but in a college environment it is easy enough to fall into a pattern of fast food, or junk food, between classes. Life gets hectic. Remind them to eat well and make wise selections at the college cafeteria. When you go on campus visits make sure that you eat at the cafeterias and see what kind of food choices will be typically available for your child.

Encourage your child to take a gym course each semester so that they get some regular exercise. Even though trudging back and forth to class may qualify, it is also good to take a course in something totally fun like fencing or sculling, or body conditioning. It’s good for them too!

Although your child may roll their eyes, at some of this advice, and perhaps some of it may be elementary, it is wise to discuss how they plan to take care of themselves while they are away from home. You might even give them a “what if “ scenario. Like “what if you woke up with fever and chills”, or “what would you do if you cut yourself badly?”

Going out on your own is scary – so talk about emotional health too. Let him know you will always be there to talk to when the stress level rises, and so on. There are also counseling services and relaxation programs on most campuses. Make sure your child gets familiar with those and knows where and how to get help for themselves or their college friends.