Dorm Room Doctors: Staying Healthy Away From Home

With the fall semester just under way, the changes in college life have yet to settle in for students and parents alike. The excitement and nervousness are tough to quell. While parents have to place more trust in their student than ever, an empty nest doesn’t mean you can’t help the baby birds fly.

As times change, children grow and the world warps, problems old and new present themselves. It’s almost impossible to predict what the future holds for you or your child. We can never peek at the next page in life, however, we can prepare for what may be ahead. As the baby bird begins to choose it’s own course, we must double check to ensure they know the pit stops along the way. In this article, we’ll go over the turbulence that may be ahead, how to avoid it, and where they can land should they need it.

The Freshman 15

Let’s start with the most colloquialized of the issues freshman go through: the “freshman 15.” As the saying goes, first year college students always seem to pack on fifteen extra pounds in their first year. This is often used as either a coping mechanism or a word of warning. For some parents, the freshman 15 is a great tool on your belt when your student comes home feeling a bit down about themselves: “Don’t worry about it, it’s just the freshman 15.” For others, it’s a way to keep their student in shape: “You better keep going to the gym, you don’t want to put on the freshman 15.”

While it’s more of a legend than anything, the concepts behind the freshman 15 are very real. For many kids, college is a time to let go a little bit. With the reins off, they let their nutrition slip a little bit. The truth is, this should be used as a comfort much more than a warning. For many students, this gain is perfectly fine and reversible. However, there are bigger concerns that the freshman 15 may be a symptom of. A study at the University of Arizona showed that 10% of students neglect their diets so much they develop scurvy, and a similar Dutch study linked weight gain to mental health issues. Letting things slip a little bit is a-okay, but make sure you or your child aren’t developing bigger issues if you notice weight gain.

The Party Problem

The freshman 15 is also linked to something other than a lack of exercise: 30.7% of students increase their alcohol consumption in their first year of college. This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as colleges are known to be rife with parties. Whether you are strictly against them or willing to let kids be kids, you should be aware and make sure that your students are aware of potential health problems.

It’s important to know your limits at parties. Many first year health problems stem from alcohol, with half of all college related deaths due to overconsumption. And where there is alcohol, there is also sex and aggression. STDs run rampant on college campuses across America, and safe sex is of dire importance. Alcohol is also linked to aggressive behavior, often leading to assault. So it’s important to remind your students to never lose awareness of their awareness, and never get stuck in situations that make them uncomfortable. Remember students, college is your party and…

You Can Cry If You Want To

Mental health on college campuses hit a new low in 2015, and doesn’t seem to be getting much better. This is linked to several different factors. Bullying, hazing, anxiety, depression, FOMO, social media, social interaction, grades… College is a time of stress and hormones, the perfect Molotov cocktail. There’s no all encompassing solution – these problems won’t go away with a vaccination. You and your student should both be aware of their potential problems, and make sure to stay on top of their emotional well being. Perhaps the only comforting idea in all of this is that mental health stigma is at an all time low, meaning more students are more likely to be vocal and aware of these problems than ever before. To anyone suffering, remember that you are not alone, and there are places to seek help.

Oh, The Places You Will Go

About that, truly the most important thing that you can do to ensure that your student remains healthy is to make sure they know where they can go to get the help they need.

College health centers are often equipped to handle everything from flu shots to H1N1, and are free and easy to access. If your school has a dentistry program, you can often get free care from students if it becomes necessary. Colleges are also beginning to open up centers for mental health care, with therapists on call. You can also check for health related events – many colleges go out of their way to keep students unstressed during finals week, doing things like having dogs from the local pound in the student center.

Of course, not everything can be handled on campus. You should also be aware of the local health facilities. You likely won’t need them, but it will never hurt to know the number for the local EMTs, or where the closest hospital or urgent care centers. Should you ever be in an emergency, the experts at these facilities will be much better equipped to help. Parents, you should also go through the things your student will need to use these facilities – does your student know where their insurance card is? This process gets skipped over for many students, and it can be very important.

Staying healthy away from home is no harder than it is at home, so long as you’re prepared. If this article was helpful, be sure to check back soon as we take a deeper look into college health concerns.

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