Going off to college is the start of a new chapter in your life. Living away from home for the first time, adapting to a new environment, meeting new friends and making memories that last a lifetime … the last thing you want to think about is your asthma or allergies, but managing your condition should not be ignored.
Here’s a be-prepared checklist:
- Work with your board-certified allergist and update your Asthma Action Plan, tailored to the new college environment. Take it with you to school and show it to your roommate; give copies to the dorm’s resident assistant (RA), the health clinic and coaches if you play sports. Talk with the RA about how no-smoking policies are enforced.
- Bring all your current daily and emergency medications and management tools such as a nebulizer or peak flow meter. Store them with your Asthma Action Pan in a clean, dry, easily accessible place in your dorm. Refill prescriptions before you leave for school or bring the prescriptions with you.
- Always carry your bronchodilator inhaler for asthma and/or epinephrine auto-injector for life-threatening allergies.
- Pack dust-mite-proof encasements for pillows and mattresses. Check online allergy supply companies for the best brands; local store varieties may not be as comfortable or effective. You may even want to bring your own mattress, but check with the college first. Don’t forget to wash the encasements and sheets in hot water every week.
- Stock up on cleaning supplies, including antibacterial sprays and wipes for doorknobs, computer keyboards and other common surfaces, as well as dust cloths.
- Bring a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter if there is carpet on your dorm room floor and consider a HEPA air cleaner if your allergic to indoor allergens.
- If you are going to college far from home, ask your allergist to help you find a board-certified allergist in your college town and schedule an appointment to review your Asthma Action Plan. If you take allergy shots, make arrangements to have them continued.
- Get your flu shot.
- If you have food allergies, meet with the dean of food services to find out how the student cafeteria accommodates students with food allergies. Ask how the cooks handle cross contamination of foods.
- Visit the student health center — most colleges have one — and find out what services they offer. Bring a copy of your Asthma Action Plan.
- Consider wearing a medical alert tag. Let your roommate know how they can help you in case of emergency.
- Check classrooms and libraries for potential indoor air quality problems and talk to college administrators if you experience problems.
Also see: Planning for School with Food Allergies