Keep Your New College Student Healthy
Are you sending a kid off to college? You no doubt know about the dreaded Freshman Fifteen, so you need to help your child maintain good health in the midst of fatty cafeteria food, all-nighters and a dearth of exercise time.
Beginning college is a major stressor—perhaps living on their own for the first time, increased study demands, social expectations. The last thing they need is to let their health decline due to bad food choices, too little sleep and no exercise. Below are some tips from the Mayo Clinic.
l Start with a pre-college physical exam. During this exam, make sure your child’s vaccinations are up to date and the doctor will evaluate any problems or potential risks associated with your child’s personality or family medical history. If s/he has a chronic condition, such as asthma, make a plan with the doctor for ongoing treatment/medication at school. If your child is planning to participate in athletics, some colleges require additional tests, so check with the college before going to the appointment.
Since living in cramped quarters with hundreds of other students increases the risk of infectious diseases, here are some extra vaccinations to consider: Meningococcal disease, Hepatitis B and Influenza.
l Urge your child to get enough sleep. While “all-nighters” may appear to be the way to prepare for exams, they can be avoided by strengthening study and time-management skills. Invest in some earplugs and eyeshades for your child in case s/he ends up living in a noisy dorm or has a roommate who stays up ‘til all hours.
l Encourage your child to maintain good habits. Now that Junior is on his own, there’s no one there to make him eat his fruits and veggies. But remind him that the easiest way to get these in is to have a serving of each at every meal. Tell your child that if s/he’s headed in the direction of an eating disorder, enlist the help of the campus health services immediately.
l Drugs and alcohol. Alcohol is still a prominent feature of social life on most campuses, even though most students are underage. Remind your child that drug use and underage drinking are illegal.
l Here’s a tough one, parents, but you need to have “the talk” again. Remind your child that the best protection against STDs and pregnancy is abstinence from sexual activity, but if s/he is sexually active, tell him/her to be sure to practice safe sex.
l Tell your child to find out where the campus health services are and how they operate shortly after arriving at school. S/he doesn’t want to be figuring out how to get to the student health center when s/he’s already ill.
l Health insurance. If your child is covered by your health insurance, be sure to give your child his/her own insurance card and all the pertinent phone and account numbers. If your child isn’t covered under your health plan, many colleges offer low-cost insurance for students.
l Exercise. Encourage your child to walk or bike to and from campus instead of driving or taking the bus. Keep in touch with your child often to also check on well being.