After a year of disruptions due to the pandemic, colleges and college-bound students are ready for a return to a more normal school year on campus. If your teen is headed to college for the first time, help prepare them by encouraging them to have a wellness checkup.

“It’s important for your young adult to see their doctor for an exam prior to moving away because they’re now going to be responsible for their own health for the first time,” says pediatrician Dr. Pilar Bradshaw.

During that appointment, your doctor can make sure that your student is up to date on their immunizations, which is important because young adults are at risk for over a dozen vaccine-preventable diseases, including meningitis B, HPV and COVID-19.

Meningococcal disease
Meningococcal B is a potentially deadly bacterial infection of the thin lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, and it is easily spread.

“Meningococcal B spreads very readily in crowded living environments, so kids who are going off to a dorm or kids who are joining the military really need to be immunized to prevent this bacterium from spreading,” says Dr. Bradshaw.

Providers at Eugene Pediatric Associates also strongly encourage teens to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. It causes virtually all cervical cancer, as well as other types of cancer that affect both females and males.

According to data from the Chronicle of Higher Education, more than 680 public and private colleges across the U.S. are requiring students to get a COVID-19 vaccine before the start of fall term, due to the surge in coronavirus cases and the spread of the Delta variant.

It’s important for you and your student to become familiar with how your college is addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and the steps that are being taken on campus to protect students and faculty. You can find a link to COVID-19 response web pages for most public universities and community colleges in Oregon here.

In addition to familiarizing yourself with campus policies and procedures, encourage your student to follow these tips to help reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19:

  • Wear a fabric face covering when in public spaces or when 6 feet of social distance cannot be maintained.
  • Create a small circle of close friends who are also mindful about social distancing.
  • Practice good hand hygiene.
  • Get tested early if you exhibit symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Stay isolated when sick.

If your college student will be living on campus, make sure they familiarize themselves with their school’s health center and what to do if they are feeling ill.

Leverage campus wellness resources
Your student’s mental health is just as important as their physical health. Since the pandemic began, there’s been an alarming rise in new diagnoses of anxiety and depression among college-age young adults and teens. Encourage your young adult to find healthy outlets when they are feeling overwhelmed.

Dr. Bradshaw says it’s also important for kids to have a game plan for how they’re going to spend their time while away at school. “And part of that game plan should include regular exercise to help deal with their emotions when they’re feeling stressed out.”

Parents are encouraged to check in with their kids more often this year because, even though they are able to return to campus, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and the campus experience isn’t going to feel entirely normal to students.