7 Ways to Ensure a Healthy College Experience

Be proactive this flu season and beyond with your health or your student's.

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College is often the time when a student begins to take ownership of his or her own health, but it comes with some important challenges, such as living in large groups where illnesses can spread quickly. Here are seven things you need to know about dealing with your health as a student and helping your child take over that process if you’re a parent.

JULIE:

As a parent, it can be hard relinquishing control of things you’re used to having an active hand in, including your child’s health. Every time I talk to Lindsey these days, I always ask the same question: Have you gotten your flu shot yet?

Here are some things to cover before handing over the reins:

1. Privacy: Around the time your child goes to college is also the first time health providers consider him or her an adult. That means you won’t be able to take your child to doctors or other healthcare providers without his or her permission. It’s important to talk with your child about how involved he or she wants you to be in health-related matters.

2. Health insurance: Make sure your student understands how his or her health insurance works. Some things to discuss include where to seek treatment and if there is a co-pay or deductible. [Discover five ways health reform affects college students.]

Our particular insurance plan doesn’t work well with the health services at Lindsey’s school. In her case, it’s often better to be seen at a doctor in her college town or even to drive the 30 minutes home to see our family doctors.

If your child isn’t covered by health insurance, be sure to check with the school about affordable options they might have access to as a student.

3. Preventative care: It’s good to check in with your child occasionally about things like routine physicals and flu shots. Also, send a starter kit of over-the-counter medications and a thermometer for when they feel under the weather.

4. When to call home: Last year, Lindsey developed a virus that attacked her eyes. We assumed it was dry eye and invested a fortune in over-the counter remedies. Finally, it was obvious that she needed to see our eye doctor. What she had was actually fairly serious and required several months of treatment.

Her communication with us during this time was important. And even though I wish we hadn’t waited so long to send her to the doctor, I’m glad she didn’t try to handle it all on her own.

LINDSEY: I knew that living in a residence hall my freshman year would be a very different experience, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for how easy it was to get sick there. A cold or flu virus can really slow you down, and they always seem to come at the worst times. Here’s what I practiced to stay healthy at school:

1. Basics: College life is hectic, but one of the best ways I’ve found to survive cold and flu season is simple: Be good to your body. Get enough sleep; eat as healthily as possible; exercise regularly; and limit your alcohol intake.

[Find out how campus cafeterias are battling the Freshman 15.]

2. Campus resources: My school has an on-campus health center along with a pharmacy, and offers some services at discounted rates or even for free. The location is convenient, and healthcare providers will often work around your class schedule more than a non-affiliated clinic might.

3. Cleanliness: One thing I didn’t expect about the residence halls is just how dirty they can get. Week days can be extremely busy, so try allotting some time every weekend for some deep cleaning to avoid germs. Last year I invested in tons of disinfecting wipes, and used them constantly!