You may think you are healthy as an ox, but that’s neither here nor there when you’re away from home and sick as a dog, especially since close living quarters and stress can seriously aggravate health issues.
Since Mom won’t be around to feed you chicken soup or carpool you to appointments, use this guide to doctors, vaccinations, insurance and meds to stay as healthy as humanly possible while on campus.
Check off Your Checkups
If you want to stick to your hometown doctor, you’ll need to schedule appointments on breaks from school (which requires some planning). Otherwise, make sure you hit up these docs while you’re out of town:
- General practitioner: every six months to a year for a complete physical
- Dentist: once every six months to keep those pearly whites clean
- Gynecologist (for females): once a year for a Pap smear and pelvic exam
- Dermatologist: once a year
- Psychiatrist: varies on a person-by-person basis. You can schedule a visit with the school’s psychiatrist, who will help you make additional appointments from there, or you can ask your at-home doc for phone sessions
The Vaccine Scene
Many colleges require incoming students to have certain vaccinations since disease can spread like wildfire through dormitories. Make note of the vaccines your school requires and make sure you’ve got them taken care of. The following vaccinations, if not current, are suggested for college students by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis)
- MCV4 (meningococcal vaccine): specifically recommended for previously unvaccinated college freshmen living in dormitories
- Hepatitis B series
- Polio series
- MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
- Varicella (chickenpox): a second catch-up varicella shot is recommended for adolescents and adults who have previously received one dose
You may need these bad boys too, depending on your own specific health conditions or exposure in households to other people at risk:
- PPV (pneumococcal polysaccharide)
- Hepatitis A
- HPV (human papillomavirus): aka the cervical cancer vaccine, it’s a series of three shots for females only. Additional recommendations may be made if future research shows that the vaccine is also safe and effective for males.
Chances are you’ve probably already had most of these vaccines, but be sure to confirm with your doctor. And while you’re at it, ask for a copy of your medical records to stow at school. (You never know when you’re going to need those!) If you’re still worried, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. It also offers a free online quiz that tells you exactly which vaccines you may need.
Most colleges require students to have health insurance. If your school offers its own insurance, look into it, especially if you’re not covered under a parent’s plan. Medications and doctor appointments are cheaper with insurance, and it’s easier to pay for them when you’re on the school’s plan.
Even if you don’t go for school coverage, the student health center is an awesome resource. Program the number into your phone and don’t hesitate to call if you ever have a problem. They are usually flexible with booking appointments around your class schedule and tend to be staffed by a variety of doctors. Among other services, university health centers are usually cool about issuing birth control and testing for STDs, although the standing joke is that you can’t walk in for cough syrup without being offered at least one pregnancy test. (And yes, this goes for guys, too.)
The Medicine, Man
Stay on top of prescriptions, especially if you have a pre-existing health condition such as allergies, asthma or diabetes, since impromptu trips to the pharmacy once made by Mom can be downright impossible during midterms or finals. If you do have a serious health condition, alert your roommates and RA, just to be on the safe side. Speaking of which, here are some items that should make their way from your medicine cabinet to your under-the-bed box, just in case:
- Adhesive bandages in assorted sizes
- Antibacterial ointment: for cleaning wounds
- Aspirin or acetaminophen: for headaches, pain, fever
- Antihistamine ointment: for rash or bug bites
- Cold medicine: for sniffles, coughing, sore throat
- Cough drops: for keeping quiet in class
- Instant ice pack: for bruises or falls
- Chewable/dissolving antacid tablets: for nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, upset stomach