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Plan for a healthy start to college

Dr. Ann Hays

Dr. Ann Hays

Written by Dr. Ann Hays, the medical director at University Health Service at UK.

As August begins, college-bound students will begin planning for life on campus this fall.

In between shopping for dorm supplies and registering for classes, new college students should also take a moment to plan for a healthy start to their new lives.

What to bring

When packing for college, students should make sure to bring up-to-date childhood immunization records and copies of their health insurance information. They should also bring a document with the contact information of their home physician along with any known medical conditions, drug allergies, and a list of current medications and dosages.

A first-aid kit is also important. It should include bandages, antiseptic and antibiotic ointment, a digital thermometer, hand sanitizer, acetaminophen or ibuprofen, an antihistamine for allergic reactions, and an anti-itch cream. Some students take this a step further and bring a sick day, cold or flu kit, which includes the items above along with tissues, antibacterial wipes for disinfecting household surfaces, cough syrup and stomach medications.

Immunizations

Before coming to college, incoming students need to make sure their immunizations are up to date.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends college students receive the meningococcal vaccine, Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis) and the HPV series in addition to their routine childhood immunizations, which include Hepatitis A and B, polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), and varicella.

Students should also get an influenza vaccine every year to protect themselves from the flu. Also check for any special vaccine requirements specific to the student’s college, university or field of study.

Healthcare on campus

Check to see if the student’s college or university has a student health center. Parents and students will want to familiarize themselves with the particular services available on campus, along with the facility’s location, phone number and website.

If your college doesn’t have a student health service, check with insurance providers to get a list of covered local providers, urgent treatment centers and emergency departments located close to campus. Create a plan so that students can obtain prescription medications while away at school. Transfer prescriptions to a nearby pharmacy or arrange for a mail-order pharmacy to deliver.

Being prepared for unexpected illness or injury and knowing about healthcare options while away at school will make the transition to college much easier for students and families alike.


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