- Eat healthy meals and get plenty of rest.
- Visit the student health services at your school if you start feeling sick or need someone to talk to.
- Health services also have counselors if you’re stressed, depressed, or upset.
Going to college is a very exciting time in your life! You’ll be meeting new people and learning new things. However, college can be a huge change from what you’re used to. You may be on your own for the first time in your life, having to make decisions about many issues including your health. This may seem overwhelming at first. It will take time to learn how to handle both the freedom and responsibilities of college life.
What’s important for me to know about before I go to college?
Filling out your college enrollment health form: After you have sent in your acceptance to the college or university that you will be attending, you will be required to mail back a completed health form with a record of all of your immunizations (vaccines/shots/boosters). You should receive this health form in the information packet that you get in the mail. You will need to call your primary care provider’s (PCP’s) office and arrange to have this form filled out. If you haven’t had a recent physical, you will probably need one. It’s also important to know if you have any allergies and to include this information on your health form. Your HCP’s office may be able to send or fax the health form directly to the student health center at your college.
Getting information from your Primary Care Provider’s (PCP’s) office: Call your primary care provider’s office. Let the office know what you need – your immunization record, documentation of any health problems, your medications and allergies. You should check all the medication you are taking and make a list. Along with a copy of your immunization record, you should get a list of all of the medications that you are currently taking, including the strength (amount of milligrams) and the dosage (how much of it you should take). On your record you should also list any allergies (to food, medications, or the environment), any past medical problems (asthma, pneumonia, etc.), and special needs (chronic health problems and disabilities). A record of any mental health problems and your family medical history should be included too. It’s a good idea to make a copy of all of your medical records for yourself as well. Keep this information with other important papers that you plan on taking to college.
Your immunizations must be up-to-date: Your primary care provider will make sure that your immunizations (shots and boosters) are current. You should ask your PCP if you are up to date on the meningococcal vaccine to lower your chances of getting the very serious infection meningitis (inflammation of the brain tissue). The vaccine will help to protect you against this serious disease.
There are certain shots you must have before going to college unless you sign a waiver. Check out your state’s requirements regarding the vaccine. Make sure you keep a copy of your immunization record.
Health insurance: You’ll need to make sure that you have health insurance while you are at college. Talk with your parent(s)/guardian(s) to see if you are covered under their health plan, and to discuss any questions that you have.
You should find out:
- What type of plan you are on (HMO, PPO, etc.)
- What the policy covers – visits to your college health services may be covered with your tuition
- How to file claims
- What to do in the case of an emergency
Don’t forget to take a copy of your health insurance card with you. You should always keep it in your wallet, because you may be asked to show it if you ever need urgent health care. You should remember that your parent(s)/guardian(s) will likely be notified every time that the insurance company is billed if you are on their policy. If you aren’t covered under their insurance plan, you will probably be able to sign up for your own health insurance through your college.
Prescription medicine: It’s important to get your prescription(s) filled before you leave for college. If you’ll be far from home, it’s a good idea to ask your PCP if you can get extra refills for medicine that you use on a regular basis, such as an inhaler. You should also find out the name and phone number of a pharmacy near your school and figure out how to get refills when you need them. If you can’t get refills at a local pharmacy, you may be able to use a mail order prescription system which often sends a three month supply at a time or your parent(s)/guardian(s) may need to mail your refills to you. If you have a food allergy, it is extremely important to ensure that you have your epi-pens to take with you. You should get two, one to keep in your dorm room, one to carry with you at all times.
First Aid Supplies
What should I take with me to college in case I get sick or have a small emergency?
Most college and university campuses have a student health center where you can go if you are sick with a cold, flu, need first aid, etc. However, most student health centers aren’t open 24 hours a day, and may not be open at all on the weekends. Therefore, it’s a good idea to buy a few supplies and make a home-made first aid kit to keep in your dorm room. Chances are you won’t need to use it, but if you do, you’ll be happy that you have the supplies on hand.
Your kit should include:
- Digital thermometer
- Adhesive bandages for small cuts and scrapes
- Gauze and adhesive tape
- Antibacterial/antibiotic ointment (For example, Bacitracin )
- An ice pack or chemical cold pack
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for aches and fevers
- Medicine for menstrual cramps (ibuprofen, naproxen sodium)
- Allergy medicine (especially if you have itchy eyes and tend to sneeze from pollen/dust)
- Cough and cold medicine
- Sore throat lozenges
- Calamine lotion