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Leaving home for the first time, learning to live with roommates and embracing self-discipline while surrounded by new distractions may be the easy challenges for college freshmen. For many, this is the first time they will schedule medical appointments, fill prescriptions and make decisions about their own health care. But, with a little planning and parental guidance, college can be an opportunity for young adults to learn how to stay healthy and get care when they are ill.
Understand the on-campus options
Make sure your student knows ahead of time what their on-campus health resources are as college health services can vary from school to school. Larger schools may have a full-service clinic on campus, while smaller colleges may have close relationships with community providers. In addition, your student needs to understand when and where to seek routine medical care and what constitutes a health-related emergency. That includes when to get a walk-in appointment, when to visit the emergency department and when to call 911. Students should also know if they’re covered under their parents’ health plan.
Check with your health insurance plan for additional ID cards for your student to have while away at college.
Prep your student with his or her own medical history
Parents can help prepare students by going over the care they’ve been receiving at home, including how to get medication refills, seek specialty care for chronic illness or schedule ongoing therapy. And, for students on long-term medications, knowing how and where to fill prescriptions is as important as knowing what medications they are taking and why.
For young adults with chronic health conditions such as diabetes or asthma, more deliberate planning is necessary. Check with your student’s school to see if you should send your child’s records to the campus health center and the best way to do that if needed for your student’s continued treatment. Your primary care physician can make sure immunizations are current. Also, ask your physician if your child’s meningococcal vaccine is up-to-date to lower risks of getting a serious meningitis infection (inflammation of the brain tissue). The vaccine will help to protect against this serious disease.
Leverage health service technology: virtually enabled care
The most common reasons college students seek medical care include upper respiratory infection, pneumonia, strep throat and urinary tract infections. These are all conditions your freshman can have treated virtually via their smartphone, computer or tablet within minutes rather than traveling to an urgent care facility or retail clinic. Virtually enabled care is a direct, convenient way to empower and equip first-year college students to take control of their health needs. Go to our online service provider’s,MDLIVE, website at https://www.togetherhealthnetwork.org/virtualcaremi/ and download the virtual care app. That’s all it takes to set your child on a healthy first year college pathway.
Begin at home
Laying the groundwork for your child’s health away from home is important for their independence. Students need a basic understanding of how to get care when they need it. So, don’t ignore packing those plans for their health as they ease into that first college year away from home.