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Teaching Kids to Manage Their Health Care at College

Posted 7/25/2016 by UHBlog

Does your student have a clean bill of health before he hits campus? Ask him to call us for an appointment.

Teaching Kids to Manage Their Health Care at College

You’ve ensured your child’s shots are up-to-date, nursed her colds and refilled her prescriptions. But now she’s heading off to college and won’t have you around to manage her daily health concerns. Is she ready to take care of herself?

“Once you turn 18, in the world of lawyers and doctors, you have to make your own health care decisions – and that can be terrifying,” says family medicine specialist Kashif Anwar, MD. “I see patients in their late teens or early 20s who have a lot of basic questions. I have to hold their hands and walk them through because, for all those years, Mom and Dad took care of everything.”

Dr. Anwar offers these seven suggestions to prepare your child for health care self-sufficiency:

  1. Insist she make her own routine medical and dental appointments while she is still in high school.
  2. Ditto for refilling prescriptions. Discuss which pharmacies work with your insurance and whether – or under what circumstances – your child can use a mail-order service. Encourage him to refill prescriptions before they run out, instead of waiting until the last minute and risking the medications won’t be in stock.
  3. If your child has allergies or asthma, make sure she’s well-versed in using her EpiPen or rescue inhaler. If she’s diabetic, teach her to monitor her blood sugar and if necessary, administer insulin. Confirm she knows when her condition warrants medical attention.
  4. Clarify the difference between routine and emergency care. Learn what conditions are treated at the university health center and locate the nearest alternative clinics and hospitals.

    “If it’s life-threatening, such as severe shortness of breath, chest palpitations or involvement in a motor vehicle crash, it’s imperative to go to a more acute facility or emergency room,” Dr. Anwar says, adding a primary care doctor, walk-in clinic, college health center or urgent care is usually sufficient for seasonal ailments or minor injuries.

  5. Discuss the financial aspect of medical care. Define insurance terms, such as copay, deductible, coinsurance and explanation of benefits (EOB). Point out penalties for late arrivals, no-shows and unpaid bills.
  6. Assemble a health survival kit for her dorm room. Include an ample supply of prescription drugs, a standard first-aid kit (filled with antiseptic cleaning solution, bandages, splints and the like) and over-the-counter (OTC) remedies for headaches, fevers and colds. Explain that all OTC drugs have potential side effects, so it’s important to stick to the recommended dose and see a doctor if symptoms persist or worsen.
  7. Keep the lines of communication open. You may be footing his medical bill, but doctors can’t discuss the condition of a patient over 18 without the patient’s consent. Likewise, your son may be Big Man on Campus, but it’s likely he’ll still require your guidance at some point – so make sure he knows it’s okay to call for advice.

Kashif Anwar, MD is a family medicine specialist at University Hospitals Kent Health Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Anwar or any other doctor online.

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