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Off to school checklist

It won't be too long before your graduating senior is finalizing their class schedule, making housing arrangements, and waving goodbye as they head off to start their first year in college. There is a lot to deal with emotionally, especially for those leaving the nest for the first time. In the midst of the celebrations and the packing, it's important to address health and safety issues before sending students off to school.

Schedule a checkup with your family physician before your child leaves for school.

  • This is a good time to discuss any medical issues that may be a concern and to make sure vaccines are all up-to-date.
  • It's also a good time to make sure your child has the medications they need to take to school with them for any chronic medical problems such as asthma and ADHD.
  • Some schools may require physical or sports forms to be filled out.

Be familiar with the student health department at the university.

  • Minor illnesses and injuries are sometimes unavoidable despite our best efforts to prevent them. Discuss what can be taken care of at the health department and what requires more care and a possible ER visit.

Plan ahead for follow up of chronic medical problems.

  • If your child will be home for a long weekend or a school break, use that time to schedule any follow-up appointments that are needed, such as preventative health care, dental appointments and eye exams.

Pack common medications such as Tylenol®, Motrin® and Benadryl®.

  • A first aid kit is also recommended. It may be difficult for some students to get to a pharmacy or grocery store off campus if they don't have a car.

Discuss safety and avoidance of risky behaviors with your child.

  • Prepare them to make good decisions despite what they see their peers do.
  • Encourage them to continue to say no to alcohol, drugs and smoking.
  • Talk about ways to make dates safe when seeing someone new.
  • Recommend  they go out with a group of friends rather than being alone with someone they just met.
  • College students will be exposed to many people with different backgrounds, and with their new freedom they should assume responsibility for their own health and safety.

Discuss ways to deal with stress.

  • Remind your child to continue good study habits, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep.
  • Cramming for exams adds to stress and losing sleep doesn't result in good grades on exams.
  • Avoiding energy drinks is also a good rule of thumb.

Keep the lines of communication open. Talk to your child regularly by phone or email. They are transitioning into adulthood, but still need guidance and support from their parents.

Written by Dr. Mary Le, a pediatrician with Via Christi Clinic


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