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Help your college student start adulting with these healthcare tips

With college orientation starting soon, many parents are finding the delicate balance of holding on and letting go of their young adult child.

Dr. Kym Furney sees many young adults in her work as an internal medicine specialist at Tryon Medical Partner’s Pineville office. And she’s also the mother of two college age daughters, which provides her a unique perspective in caring for this age group.

As she shares, the last thing that most young adults are thinking about as they adjust to college life is what to do if they get sick. The key is making sure that students are prepared to manage their healthcare needs themselves, for what is most likely, the first time. 

Below are her top tips for parents to help during this time of transition. 

Encourage them to find a primary care clinician

While some pediatricians make exceptions to treat patients older than 18, many don’t. Establishing a relationship with an internal medicine specialist is a critical step, and one you can help foster for your young adult child. 

Finding the right clinician, one who can relate to what your child is experiencing and whom they can trust, allows them to have someone to speak openly and confidentially about their healthcare needs. As they are learning to become more autonomous, it is reassuring to have someone who knows their medical history and can be messaged with questions or concerns when away at school. Those going to college in North Carolina also have the opportunity for virtual visits at practices like Tryon, providing additional peace of mind for worried parents.

Plan ahead

It’s best for your child to schedule an annual physical the summer before leaving for college, with most young adults getting on either a summer or winter break schedule for these appointments. The same is true for making dentist and eye care visits when home from school. 

Provide your student with any login information (username/password) that they may need to access their medical history (including pediatric immunization records) and to communicate with their clinicians.

Lastly, check that your healthcare insurance works in the state where your child is attending school. If not, most colleges offer their own insurance, as it’s mandatory for students. Remind your child to keep a copy of their insurance card and HSA card (if they have one) in their wallet, or take a picture of it so they have the policy number on their phone.

Make a plan for prescriptions

Young adults must know how to refill their prescriptions. If they plan to use a local pharmacy where they are going to school, help them find a convenient location to transfer their prescriptions. If they use mail-order prescriptions, make sure they have their login information. As they learn to manage this process on their own, it’s also best to send them off with a full supply of their prescription medications. 

“I’ll also add, from past experience, to send enough contact lenses!” says Dr. Furney.

Have over-the-counter medicines ready

Dr. Furney recommends putting together a small container with the below items, and to even label the boxes with the purpose of the medicine if it may not be clear to your student:

  • Pain meds/fever meds (ibuprofen or acetaminophen)
  • Allergy meds (non-sedating for daytime, such as loratadine or cetirizine; and diphenhydramine for nighttime, which is sedating)
  • Cold/flu medications
  • Gastrointestinal medications (for diarrhea and general indigestion)
  • Box of bandages and small tube of antibiotic ointment (for cuts) and cortisone (for bug bites)

Ensure they know what to do when they get sick

College life usually entails more stress, less sleep and communal living, which means experiencing more illness than they may remember. Make sure they know where the student health center is on campus or how to do a virtual visit with their doctor at home.

“It’s a bit overwhelming for young adults, in the beginning,” Dr. Furney shares. “Parents need to see this time as a slow transition period and be there as a safety net, with a little hand holding along the way. Our children need to be prepared but also empowered.”