Preparing your teen for college and taking care of their health

Preparing your teen for college and taking care of their health

By Kimberlee I. Smith, MD
Pediatric Hospitalist

College is a huge and exciting step in an adolescent’s development. Being prepared can help your teen stay healthy and know where to go when they’re not. Whether your child is staying close to home, or going across the country for school, here are a few tips to add to your college checklist:

  • Schedule a visit with your primary care physician. (See a list of local Swedish physicians who can see your teen here.)

    • Physicians can make sure your teen is up to date on immunizations that many colleges require. Teens commonly need influenza, Tdap, HPV, and meningococcal vaccines.

    • Ensure that your child has prescriptions (with refills) for all medications they routinely use. Even “as needed” medicines may become needed in college. These medicines should be kept in a locked box in your teen’s room, as many medications can be stolen or used illicitly.

    • Your teen should keep a copy of their health records, immunization records, health insurance information and primary care physician contact information in safe place. Part of becoming an adult is owning (and keeping track of) your health records!

    • Physicians will often confidentially discuss college drug use and partying with your teen. Drugs and alcohol are more readily accessible in college; and it’s important for your teen to be prepared.

  • Once at school, your teen should know where the health center is and how to access it. They will undoubtedly need it at one point in their college career. From flu treatment to STD screening to birth control, the health center is a fantastic resource.

  • All college students should know how to contact campus security in the event of an emergency. Security and night-watch groups vary among campuses; but many can offer fantastic services—like courtesy walks from the library to the dorms late at night.

  • If you haven’t already, start open-ended conversations with your teen about drugs and sex. Asking questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” are the best place to start. While seemingly awkward at first, these conversations make it much easier for your teen to come to you in the event of a question or problem.

  • Last but not least, be prepared for your home life to change! Having a teen away at college changes a family dynamic and affects the entire family (pets included). Understand that these changes can take time to adjust to.

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