Back to School for College Students

    Melissa Attebury, NP at Deaconess University Health Center at the University of Southern Indiana (USI)

    Young adults heading to college—or back to college—have unique health needs such as diet, sleep, exercise, illnesses, stress, mental health and immunizations/testing.


    When it comes to vaccinations and testing, students attending USI are required to have the following:   

    • 2 MMRs (measles, mumps, rubella), which is often completed long before college.
    • Tetanus vaccine within past 10 years
    • PPD (tuberculosis) skin test within the past 6 month (just for new students/freshmen)
    • Certain health education programs here at campus require more frequent TB screenings and additional vaccines; the program advisors/instructors will provide this information.
    • Hepatitis B and meningitis vaccines are encouraged but not required. A student who wishes to decline these simply needs to complete a waiver form.
    You can actually have all of these vaccinations and tests taken care of here at the UHC. You can call (812)465-1250 for pricing and additional information.
     
    Now, let’s start talking about some healthy living tips for college students. Many times, this is a student’s first experience away from their parents and the structure of home. It’s a time of growing—both personally and in responsibility. Even basic daily care, such as when/what to eat, when to go to bed, taking care of oneself when sick, etc. is now the sole responsibility of the student.
    Here are some tips to make all of that a little smoother. Please share this with the students in your life!

    NUTRITION
    • Eat breakfast. Many studies show eating breakfast can help maintain body weight and avoid weight gain. It also provides the energy and nutrients that can help increase concentration in the classroom.
    • Keep healthy snacks around. Try to limit junk food. Fruits and veggies—bananas, apples, carrot sticks, etc.—take no preparation, and are healthy and filling.
    • Don’t counter stress by eating. Try working out or doing something fun.
    • Drink lots of water and limit sugary drinks.
    • Try to eat more fruit and vegetables
    • Don’t skip meals. You need food to have energy.
    • Get help if you think you have an eating disorder. I see this sometimes in the clinic, as young women and men can feel pressure to look a certain way.

    SLEEP
    • Getting sleep is important to staying healthy and focused.
    • On average, most people need 7-9 hours of sleep a night to feel rested.  A few need more and a few need less. Try to get an adequate amount of sleep most nights.
    • Lack of sleep can have a big impact. It can make you grumpy and less likely to concentrate in classes. You are also more likely to get sick with inadequate sleep.
    • Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening, and try not to eat within a couple of hours before going to bed.
    • Try not to study or do homework in your bed if possible. It’s important to separate the place where you rest from where you work.
    • Avoid all-nighters. You’re not really learning the material—you’re just cramming. And if you do this often, it can impair your ability to do well no matter how much you study.

    EXERCISE
    • Take advantage of the gym on campus. It’s included in your tuition and campus fees, so you might as well use it! The USI campus has a beautiful gym with fantastic equipment.
    • Walk to class. If you live on campus, it really takes about the same amount of time—and you don’t have to look for a parking space.
    • Have fun, work out with a friend.
    • Utilize the Burdette-USI walking trail with a buddy. It’s a beautiful trail, but has some remote areas, so have someone with you, for both safety, or if you develop a problem.

    PREVENTING ILLNESS
    • Colds and viruses can be easily spread when living on campus and being around thousands of other students.
    • Wash your hands. This is very simple and a great way to remain healthy and prevent spread of many cold/viruses. Having some hand sanitizer in your backpack or purse is also a good idea for when you’ve been handling doorknobs, stair rails, desks and other commonly-touched items.
    • Avoid sharing beverages with your friends.
    • Increase intake of fluids when ill to stay adequately hydrated.
    • Visit the University Health Center when ill.
    • And as I mentioned earlier….adequate sleep and good nutrition can go a long way in staying healthy.

    STRESS
    • Stress is inevitable in college. It is important to create a routine that works for you.
    • Learn time management skills. This will help reduce stress. Get organized. Prioritize work and start with the most important tasks. Avoid procrastination and set up deadlines for yourself. Reward yourself for meeting those deadlines.
    • Put a limit on work hours. You have to rest and relax too. It is important for overall health.
    • Be realistic. Learn to say no, because you can’t do everything.
    • Find help or a support system when you feel overwhelmed

    MENTAL HEALTH
    • Keep in touch with family and friends to help prevent homesickness and loneliness.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Some people can be embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help but there are many resources on campus that can and want to help. The counseling center on USI’s campus is free for students.
    • Expect things to change. You will grow.
    • Get involved on campus.
    • Realize you don’t need to please everyone.
    • Set healthy boundaries with social media. Remember, most of the time you’re just seeing the “highlights” of other people’s lives. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. can make you feel like you’re not doing or being enough in your life. So be wise about who you “friend,” and try not to get sucked into drama, too!
     
    OTHER TOPICS
    These are general in nature. They’re based upon what I see here in the UHC, and also common issues among young adults.
    • Practice abstinence. Or limit sexual partners and always use protection. Always.
    • Don’t drink and drive or ride with someone that is impaired. Prepare how you would get out of this situation, if needed. Also, designating a driver at the beginning of the evening is a great idea if a group of friends is planning to drink.
    • Don’t text and drive. Some studies have suggested that you’re just as impaired while texting as someone is who has been drinking. If you’re too tempted, put the phone in your trunk or out of reach somehow.
    • Wear sunscreen to protect your skin. And don’t use tanning beds! Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer among young adults, particularly young women. And melanoma is very aggressive, and can kill. Deaconess Clinic dermatologists have cared for women under 30 who have melanoma linked to tanning. Tanned skin is damaged skin. Report any changing moles to a health care provider

    On a final note….College is fun. People often make lifelong friends during their college years. You learn more about who you are and what you want to do with your life. You have more freedom than you are likely to have ever again. Make the most of this time and have a fun, balanced, healthy life!
    For more information about the Deaconess University Health Center, including services, hours and more, visit our web page at http://www.usi.edu/healthcenter/
    Posted: August 15, 2014 by Pam Hight

    Tags: Back to School, College students, students

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