Dr. Bhaskar’s article for The Republic | azcentral.com
Leaving home for college is both exciting and stressful. Your child might be set with new bedding, a roll of quarters for the laundry and a full schedule of classes, but have you equipped him or her for the challenges of the real world?
Students are used to parents taking care of many things for them, from making a doctor’s appointment to booking airline tickets.
Some things they can learn by trial and error, but they simply cannot afford to do others wrong. Here are six things parents should do to prepare their grads for leaving home.
Medical, dental examination
Take the student to the doctor and dentist for a full examination.
Discuss vaccinations (HPV, meningococcal, hepatitis) and overall health history with the doctor. If the student has existing medical conditions that require follow-up, ask for a referral to a doctor in the college town. Go to www.abms.org to be sure that doctor is board-certified.
Talk to your dentist about wisdom teeth, dental care and a referral, if necessary. Request a copy of all records.
Develop plan for health care
Discuss and prepare a plan for utilizing the health-care system. This can be daunting for anyone, and when illness or injury strikes is not the time to face the confusing task of where to go.
Review how your health-insurance plan functions with the student. Is it a PPO or HMO? Are only certain doctors or hospitals approved? What is your deductible? Does treatment require preauthorization? Is there a toll-free number for preapproval? Check with your insurance plan about out-of-state coverage, if applicable. Does the college have health coverage? Is there an infirmary? What are the hours? Where should students go for an after-hours emergency?
Create a health-care information packet for the student, including insurance information and card, vaccinations, medication list, health history and physical, a list of recommended doctors or facilities near the college and on-campus infirmary information. Give a copy to your student in hard copy or preferably digital form (more secure and permanent), and keep a copy readily available at home.
Lastly, fill out the Basic Medical History Form card (available at ydkwydk.com; click on “Resources and links”) with the student, and have him or her keep it in a wallet or purse and on a cellphone. This form should be available 24/7 in the event of accident, injury or illness. The quality of care you receive is directly dependent upon the quality of information you provide.
Prepare basic medical kit
Assemble a complete medical kit with all the prescription medications your child may need and over-the-counter drugs for colds, flu, allergies, food poisoning, as well as tape, dressings, elastic wraps and assorted treatments for minor athletic injuries. (See the list included with this article for ideas on what to include.)
You never know when your student will need a bandage, decongestant or pain reliever. Many college students do not have transportation to get to the pharmacy if they get sick at midnight. This will give them a basic medical kit in their room for immediate use. Instruct them to replace and update the kit as items are used and/or expire.
Crucial to the proper use of the kit is an understanding of basic medications, their uses, indications and side effects or dangers. Even common and prevalent medicines can be misused or cause problems. For example, aspirin should not be used in anyone younger than 20 due to Reye syndrome. Including a basic medical-resource book with the kit is invaluable. Signing students up for an American Heart Association First Aid CPR AED course will give them invaluable knowledge and skills.
Direct discussion of drug, alcohol use
Easy availability, peer pressure and the party culture make the use of alcohol, prescription drugs and illegal drugs commonplace on the college campus. Illicit drug use occurs in 35 percent of college students, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports. Binge drinking occurs in 51 percent of college-age adults and is associated with high-risk behavior, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although most people know that alcohol kills brain cells, few realize that the human brain is far more vulnerable to permanent neurological damage under the age of 21. Alcohol targets the prefrontal cortex, the area of higher intellectual function; the tissue loss is specific and irreversible.
Discuss alcohol and drug use while in unfamiliar places or situations: frat parties, spring break, new clubs and road trips. These circumstances have the dual added risks of tainted drinks and unfamiliar surroundings. Discuss driving while intoxicated and possible crippling financial, career and legal consequences. Discuss prevention: strategies to say no, the buddy system, designated drivers.
Direct discussion of STDs, safe sex
Talk about sexually transmitted diseases and safe sex. There are three challenges: the uncomfortable nature of the discussion, false belief that these things always happen only to other people and youthful delusion of immortality and invulnerability.
First, find a reputable resource and have your child read it. The student should understand HIV, herpes, HPV (human papilloma virus), hepatitis, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and pelvic inflammatory disease. Discuss HPV vaccination; HPV is the most common STD, and it can lead to oral and cervical cancer. Vaccines are available for men and women up to 26 years of age.
Once the student learns the facts, have a calm, adult discussion about lifelong repercussions of just one moment’s carelessness. This is especially crucial for women, as the aftermath of many STDs can increase cancer risk and negatively impact fertility, childbirth, even their newborns.
Reliable, reputable resources
Have a discussion of reliable sources of health information. Emphasize that the decisions they make regarding their health should be based upon information from recognized medical experts, not their roommate, quasi-professionals or an Internet blog. Give them credible reference books and Internet sites such as www.webmd.com or www.mayoclinic.com.
This is a watershed moment for students. Preparing them by giving them knowledge and skills will keep them safe and help them to make educated decisions about their health, life and future.
William Bhaskar, MD, and Philip Bhaskar, DMD, are board-certified surgeons who have authored “You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know: The Health and Safety Guide for College Students (and All Students of Life).”
About the book
“You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know: The Health and Safety Guide for College Students (and All Students of Life),” by William Bhaskar and Philip Bhaskar, covers a wide variety of topics, from how to tell the difference between a bad headache and meningitis, to understanding your credit score, to jump-starting a car battery, to dining etiquette, to how to use a taxi. The topics are extensive but highly practical.
Each topic is covered succinctly, in straightforward language that is easy to navigate. Relevant information is presented most often in bullet-point lists without superfluous verbiage; the effect is not a lecture, but simply, “This is what’s important to know. Here you have it, and now on to the next topic.”
– Penny Walker
Dorm/apartment medical kit
Avoid a late-night trip to the drugstore or doctor with a little preparation. Start with a first-aid kit (available at drugstores or outdoor-recreation stores) with an instruction booklet. To this basic kit add:
Your prescription medicines.
- Epi-pen (if prescribed by a doctor for life-threatening allergies).
- Analgesics (painkillers such as acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen).
- Daytime and nighttime cold medicine.
- Anti-diarrheal (Pepto-Bismol).
- Anti-fungal (Monistat).
- Antihistamine (Benadryl).
- Topical antihistamine cream (Benadryl/diphenhydramine).
- Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin).
- Hydrocortisone cream.
- Eye-care items (normal saline drops).
- Magnifying glasses.
- Tweezers, tick remover and safety pin.
- Moleskin (for blisters).
- Scissors, knife and sterile needles.
- Anti-bacterial soap.
- Alcohol-swabs packets (individually wrapped).
- Antiseptic wipes (individually wrapped).
- Gauze (various sizes).
- Antiseptic (for intact skin only).
- Band-Aid Hurt-Free Antiseptic Wash (for open wounds).
- Assorted adhesive bandages.
- Ace bandages.
- Cloth tape.
- Duct tape.
- Disposable non-sterile exam gloves.
- Instant ice pack.
- Digital thermometer.
- Medicine cup, for measuring liquid medicines.
- 3M Save-A-Tooth, an emergency tooth-preserving system.
– William Bhaskar and Philip Bhaskar
Basic medical history
William and Philip Bhaskar say the following is the absolute minimum information you should have on your person at all times. Print and laminate in your wallet or purse or store on your smartphone. This critical data is invaluable to first responders.
- Primary care provider, phone
- Date of birth
- Blood Type
- Medical conditions
- Prior surgeries
- Medications used
- Over-the-counter medications used
- Alcohol, tobacco, drug use
- Next of kin or contact person, phone
Dr. Bhaskar’s article for The Republic | azcentral.com