Why it’s important to schedule back-to-college physicals
The last few weeks before young women head to college for the first time can be frenzied. It’s easy to forget to schedule a physical examination before you go. However, among back-to-school priorities, getting a physical before arriving on campus gives students a significant advantage.
It’s always helpful to have an idea of what to do in an emergency, whether extreme weather preparation, minor auto accidents, or an unexpected medical issue. It’s great to have a first-aid kit in a dorm room or car. Students can avoid harmful drug interactions by reviewing food and drug labels, and making appropriate diet choices.
Getting to know the college campus can take months
Many students, away from home for the first time, aren’t experienced at making a doctor’s appointment. When illness strikes, they often don’t know what to say when they call. Even if they are comfortable making the appointment, they may not know to bring along personal identification, and a list of allergies and medications. Anne Welch, Clinical Administrator of the University Health Service at the University of Kentucky, urges parents to arm their children with this information. “Student health fees and tuition cover basic health services. She’ll have a bigger head start, however, if she arrives with a health baseline.” Baseline lab results help identify causes for concern in the event of an health emergency.
Most college preparatory packages include directions for accessing campus services. These include office visits, allergy shots and counseling. Health educators are also available on some campuses to promote preventive medicine programs. A few colleges have even added dietitians on the watch for eating disorders and dietary recommendations. “It’s a big part of what we want parents to know that these kids have access to coming into college,” Welch says.
Students should also check to see which immunizations their college requires and ensure they get those taken care of before heading off to school. While each state has different requirements, most colleges require prior vaccination for measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox), along with TDAP vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (also known as whooping-cough).
Due to the increased risks of living in residential housing, we also recommend vaccinations for meningitis and hepatitis B. Bacterial meningitis is more easily spread through close quarters with other students. Hepatitis B virus is transmitted through blood, semen or other body fluids and can cause a serious liver infection without a vaccination. Plan to protect your student against these risks by reviewing vaccination records before they depart for campus.
With the information obtained through health history, physical exam, and lab tests, we counsel how to safeguard students’ health. We discuss sex, date rape, drug and alcohol use, smoking, seat belt use, nutrition, exercise, and stress management. Because of the sensitive nature of these topics, we offer students their choice of whether to have parents present.
Most important, we provide a safe zone where young women can ask any and all questions they have before college. No question is dumb or too silly to ask. It can be the talk that makes the difference, especially freshman year.