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Well, it’s back to school time.


I was just in the Texas Panhandle and the roadways are bustling with parents and kids hauling trailers, driving U-hauls; essentially moving away from home and many for the first time. But with all the activity and last minute hurrying, there’s one thing that often gets overlooked. Getting sick.  Getting sick is no fun. And you know what’s even less fun? Getting sick, for the first time away from home, with no caregiver (read that as mom and/or dad), alone, in your tiny dorm room. Ugh, not me!! Yes, you.

“Living in a closed environment like a college dormitory introduces a whole set of college health issues that college-age kids do not have to deal with at home,” says Guy Napolitana, MD, chairman of the primary care department at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass. Exposure to new people, new stresses, close living quarters, etc. all contribute to college students getting ill but particularly freshmen since this is their first rodeo. There’s no way around it so be prepared.

Here are a few recommendations which should come in handy. The three big ones: First, makes sure they know where the health center is. While it may not be the first choice, they should at least know where it is. If not for themselves, then for their friends. Second, ensure if they are ever unfamiliar with a medication (over-the-counter or prescription), READ THE LABEL. Does it interact with anything they are already taking or alcohol? Have they taken it before? And finally, stay connected. We have so many ways to communicate now that there shouldn’t be a time when you aren’t a text away.

And when, not if, they do get sick, follow the guidelines they’ve probably heard dozens of times. Fluids, rest, and treat the symptoms with your standard over-the-counter meds. If things get worse then head over to the university’s health center.

Finally, if we have to miss class, make sure you understand all the nuances of your school’s policy and your individual instructor. Do you need to tell your instructor? What about excused/unexcused absences and make up work? I know one student who missed a letter grade because they had one too many unexcused absences. That’s a pretty hefty fine but rules are rules and you should know them. There’s probably a good chance the policies are in your syllabus.

While ensuring they are prepared is daunting, AAACK! Packs has produced his and hers college student packs. We’ve tried to think of everything that could go wrong away from home, and since they are leaving for possibly months they’ll need a lot of items. We also have a unisex edition. Good luck and have a great year at school. You too, mom and dad.


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