As we reach that time of year again, parents, students and teachers prepare for the back to school season. Nationwide, by early September, nearly 21 million U.S. students will start a new semester at a college or university.
While these are all important tasks, there is something that often gets left off the ‘Getting Ready For College’ checklist – a formal copy of the student’s medical history. A student health expert from the University of Missouri says that reviewing medical records and preparing properly can help prevent problems for students who may be hundreds of miles from home.
“So many students who are preparing for college are concerned about which clothes to bring or how to decorate their residential halls, but most of them are not thinking about their medical history, insurance information or mental health before they move hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away from home for several months,” said Susan Even, director of the MU Student Health Center
Even, who is also a family physician and has directed the health center for 23 years, offers the following tips for college students, both new and returning:
- Know the health requirements for the campus – many states have changed the laws concerning immunizations for college students.
- Bring personal immunization records to school – many health centers need to see these records before students are allowed to register for future semesters.
- Know your risk for tuberculosis (TB) – some schools have placed restrictions on students who have traveled or lived in certain countries.
- Consult a physician about regular prescriptions – know when refills are allowed as well as any other requirements. For example, some drugs, such as Adderall, are strictly monitored, and patients must see a physician face-to-face to obtain refills.
- Pack familiar medicines and first-aid materials, including over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines, thermometers, heating pads, first-aid bandages, etc.
- Prepare for different regions of the country. Some individuals have difficulty with extreme changes in altitude or temperature. This also can affect students who travel for spring break.
- Prepare emotionally for the change in environment – ask questions and make new friends. “Some people don’t want to ask for help. My advice is to look for orientation programs or student groups and connect with others. This can be a huge source of support when students are away from home,” Even said.
- Be ready to make decisions about alcohol, substance use and sex that are consistent with educational goals and values.
- Know what insurance will cover and if the campus is in network. Understand the services and programs are offered by the health center on campus.
- Bring a copy of an insurance card, even if it’s a picture on a phone. “We can help the student through the insurance process as long as we have the correct numbers,” Even said.
- Know the student’s personal medical history, including any reactions to medications, the details of any surgeries, and treatments for past and ongoing health conditions.
Currently, Even serves as the chair of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Advisory Committee for the American College Health Association. She also is the liaison for the ACHA to the Advisory Council for Immunization Practices, which is an organization under the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).