August 7, 2017: Deborah Nunziato-Ghobashy, DO, primary care physician with Highland Medical, P.C., Family Practice Associates of Rockland in Valley Cottage, NY.
If you’re a parent who is about to send your son or daughter off to college, take time off from packing to talk with them about staying healthy. There’s a lot of ground to cover—they will be facing many challenges, including unhealthy food, not enough sleep, stress, and the availability of alcohol and drugs.
Here’s some advice you can share with your student to make the transition to college a healthy one:
- Before leaving home, check with the doctor to see if you need any vaccinations, such as those for meningitis, human papillomavirus (HPV), whooping cough (pertussis), influenza, or tetanus.
- Visit the student health center if you aren’t feeling well for any reason.
- Plan your study time so you don’t need to pull all-nighters to study. If you stay up all night, you’re likely to be sleepy the next day and have trouble concentrating, taking tests or participating in class. Being sleepy is also dangerous if you’re driving.
- Get at least 2½ hours of physical activity a week. Does the college have a state-of-the-art fitness center? How about a track? You might enjoy a dance class or a sports club.
- Eating healthy can be a challenge when you have access to all-you-can-eat buffets at the cafeteria and vending machines in your dorm. Include fruits and vegetables in your meals as a good, natural source of energy, without the fat and added sugar.
- Don’t keep your worries to yourself. Develop a support network by joining clubs and teams to find people with common interests. If you are feeling overwhelmed with work, talk to your professors, family members and friends for advice and support. If you are feeling depressed or anxious, visit the school health clinic and speak with a health professional.
- Although the legal drinking age is 21, many students see alcohol as an integral part of their college experience. However drinking—especially binge drinking—can pose serious health and safety risks, including car crashes, drunk-driving arrests, sexual assaults and injuries. Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks for men, or four or more for women. If you’re concerned about your or someone else’s drinking or drug use, ask for help from staff at the student health center, your resident advisor or parents.
- The best way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV infection, is to abstain from sexual activity, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of some STDs.
College is a big time of change for your student. By encouraging them to take the time to take care of themselves both mentally and physically, you will help them make a successful transition into their new life.