CINCINNATI—With just a few weeks left to prepare for the academic year, many parents have already scheduled their schoolchildren’s annual physicals.
But this precaution is often overlooked when it comes to college students.Dorm decorations and meal plan selection are at the top of many to-do lists, overshadowing more important issues: mental and physical health.
"People in this age group don’t see a doctor regularly because they rarely get sick, but physicians can tell them what to expect when making this transition,” says Lena Bhargava, MD, a UC Health primary care physician.
She recommends all college students have a complete physical before heading to school in the fall.
"If they see their physician, someone they know and trust, a lot of risks can be explained and problems prevented,” she says.
Fatigue and stress are the most common medical problems for students. Bhargava says leaving home, dorm life and difficulty prioritizing can all contribute to anxiety. While these are common conditions to experience while becoming acclimated to a university, they can also be warning signs.
"Change in personality, withdrawing and lack of interest are all signs something isn’t right. College students should be engaging in their experience,” says Bhargava.
To make the transition as smooth as possible, she reminds parents to provide advice and support. A balanced diet, consistent meal and sleep schedules and exercise are also essential.
Bhargava says students should avoid the abundance of caffeine, sugar and processed foods available on college campuses; these tips will also help students avoid unplanned weight gain.
"There are also more people, and that means more germs,” adds Bhargava. "Influenza and viral infections as well as whooping cough and bacterial meningitis all have increased likelihoods.”
Hand washing is essential to prevent the unnecessary spread of germs, she says.
Bhargava also suggests students be immunized with Tdap—a vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis—as opposed to the regular Td shot to help protect and prevent the spread of whooping cough, to get their meningococcal vaccine and make sure they have completed their hepatitis B series.
"Parents and students need to team up to fix things,” Bhargava says. "Learning from their physician together is key in developing healthy habits that will last a lifetime.”
*This release was written and reported by Brittany Galloway.