parents help college student pack for school

Three steps to help your college student to take care of their own health

It’s that time of year again – when bright-eyed freshmen appear on college campuses across the country eager to be on their own for the first time.

But for the parents left behind, there can be some anxiety. You’ve talked them through making good choices and warned them to actually attend their classes. Is there any more you can do to prepare them?

Dr. Robin Punsalan, pediatrician with OSF HealthCare Medical Group – Byron, says yes.

“Many teens don’t even know how to make a doctor’s appointment,” Dr. Punsalan said. “We try to encourage teens who come through our office to be more involved in their health care.”

Before sending your kids off to school, here are three things to discuss with them.

1. Plan ahead for health needs

Many college students are moving to a brand new city – which means a brand new health care network. The best time to figure out where to go with health problems is before they happen, Dr. Punsalan said.

The first step is to talk to the college your student will be attending to learn about their on-campus health clinic. Many schools have a fairly comprehensive clinic where most health needs can be covered.

“If not, find a provider in the area and get established right away,” Dr. Punsalan said.

It’s also good to know in advance what urgent care clinics and emergency departments your child can go to.

Having your teen in an emergency department in another town would be stressful and scary enough without having to deal with poor care or out-of-network insurance fees.

Then talk to your teen about where to go when they’re sick or injured, as well as what they need to bring when seeking health care or visiting the pharmacy.

“It can help to make a reference sheet of where to go,” Dr. Punsalan said.

2. Teach them when to seek care

In addition to not knowing where to go, many teens may not know when they should see a provider – or they may try to “tough it out” when they should really be seeking care.

Make sure your teen knows how to seek the right care at the right place, Dr. Punsalan said.

One great resource is OSF OnCall. This online urgent care service is available 24/7 for anyone in Illinois.

Minor illnesses and injuries can be diagnosed and treated through a computer, tablet or smartphone for a flat fee of $35. If the issue can’t be resolved virtually, your teen will be referred to in-person care and won’t be charged for the consult.

Because there’s no charge when referred to in-person care, it can be a good resource to help “triage” your teen to the correct level of care, Dr. Punsalan said.

3. Talk through their medical history

Finally, make sure your teen can relay a basic medical history when visiting a provider, Dr. Punsalan said.

They should know if they have any medical conditions and what surgeries they have had. Your teen should also be able to list their medications, dosages and allergies.

Being able to share that information can help a provider more accurately diagnose and treat conditions and help avoid unnecessary testing, Dr. Punsalan said.

For OSF HealthCare patients, using the OSF MyChart app can give your teen instant access to their medical information when they need it.