Off To College With Allergies

By Heather Legg

This year we experienced our first graduation. A good family friend’s son graduated high school this year and will be off to college in the fall. Though he does not have allergies, his mom and I were talking and the subject of contact lenses and medication did come up, which made me think of not allergy medication, but allergies themselves and going off to college.

For many kids, college is the first time they’ve been off on their own. Some have spent time away on mission trips or summer camps, but for many, this is it. So as parents, what can you do to help them in this transition? Maybe these are obvious, or maybe not, but here a few ideas I had after talking with my friend.

Go over all of the allergy essentials. Remind your child of his or her allergy, whether it is food, environmental, insect or whatever it may be. Discuss the fact that he will be living in a different environment, it may be more dusty or the food may double checking more often. Perhaps if he is going far from home, the allergens in the air may be different. Go over it all – we’re going to remind our children of a lot of things as they leave for college; their allergy health should be one of them.

Make sure they have emergency contact information. If they are going to a nearby school or going off with a buddy, you’re all set. But if it’s far from home and no real close friends, they may need to use roommate or resident assistant as their emergency contact. Have them contact the health center as well, at least to know exactly where it is.

Check that all prescriptions are up to date and talk about what to do when they expire or need refilling. Is it you that will be refilling for your child, or does he need to do it? If they are coming home on a regular basis, you could, but wouldn’t it also be a good opportunity to start handing over responsibility if you haven’t already?

Remind him of risks that may make his allergy worse, or cause a reaction. It’s a good time to tie it in with other negative behaviors, like the fact that smoking, or being around smoke, can exacerbate asthma and some allergies. If someone is under the influence of  alcohol or other drugs, they may not be as diligent with what they eat which can be dangerous if a food allergy is present. Don’t use these as scare tactics, but they are real risks your child should know about.

Of course, it is a worrisome time. But by trusting and teaching, and checking in every now and then, your child will be fine, and so will you.

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