After hearing from MANY parents, we have put together a short list of things we can do to help our kids survive their college years with as little illness and stress as possible. Illness is unavoidable when students are living in concentrated communal spaces, but they can be proactive toward maintaining their health, safety, and well-being.
So, our young friends, you might think you are indestructible, but the reality is that as you age, your health then depends on what you do to yourself now. So pay attention!
1. Wash your hands. Often. Whenever you can. The jury is out concerning the effectiveness of “antimicrobial” soaps at improving overall health. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a little better, but studies so far are unanimous that good ol’ soap and water is the best way to prevent the spread of germs and stay healthy.
2. Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. This is basic sleep hygiene, like brushing your teeth and washing your sheets regularly (you do wash your sheets, don’t you?) Go to bed and get up at the same time as much as possible. And no glowing screens in bed.
3. Eat your fruits and veggies. Loads of them. Pizza toppings do not count!
4. Be physically active at least 30 minutes every day. Going shopping with your parents’ credit card does not constitute physical exercise. And neither does running down the stairs to meet the pizza delivery person. The idea is to get your heart rate up to your target heart rate for at least one forty-eighth of your day.
5. All things in moderation like partying, pizza and other carb-heavy foods (I know we keep bringing this up) and alcohol- obviously not a good idea at all, but we’ll leave that for another discussion.
6. Get a Flu shot. This year's vaccine is predicted to be more effective than last year's shot. And usually the cost is minimal; just stop in to your local pharmacy or college campus clinic.
7. Save some of your pizza money and get a thermometer while you’re at the drugstore. A digital thermometer will cost you about $12 and it is one of the simplest and best tools for making health decisions you can buy.
8. Do not wait until you are "dying" to make an appointment at the infirmary. If you are seen earlier in your illness, there’s a better chance that treatment can stop the progression of the illness and prevent you from visiting the emergency room and the giant ER bill that your parents will not appreciate.
9. On the other hand, don't always assume you need to be seen in the infirmary. Many illnesses, especially this time of year, are viral and don’t respond to antibiotics. You can try to alleviate the symptoms with over-the-counter medicines for congestion/cough/headache/sore throat symptoms. A good rule of thumb is that if you are not running a fever (an oral temperature <100.5 documented with your newly-purchased THERMOMETER), you probably can try to treat yourself at home. If you are having a hard time deciding what medicine you need, consult your pharmacist.
10. Make sure you have healthy relationships- with friends, roommates, and significant others. Stress can wreak havoc on your immune system. Take care of conflict quickly, and promise to work together for solutions. If your relationships are unwell, chances are you will be too!
11. And last but not least, call your mom with questions. She gave birth to you and raised you and cared for you for 18+ years. Or call your dad, or another knowledgeable adult that you trust with your questions. They probably know what they are talking about!
This list is courtesy of Beth Palmer Stewart, Nurse practitioner. You can learn more about me and my business, The College Student First Aid Kit, at collegefirstaidkit.com.
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