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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, ILL (May 1, 2019) – Feeling as though there are too many things to think about as you plan your transition from high school senior to college freshman? Here’s something else to consider: How will you handle your allergies and asthma in your new environment?
“Many college freshmen have never been in charge of their health care before and must consider how they’ll keep their allergies and asthma under control,” says allergist Todd Mahr, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “There are all sorts of questions to answer before they go, such as: How will I handle dorm food if I have a food allergy? What if I’m allergic to things in my room? Where will I get my prescription medications? and Where do I go if there’s a medical emergency? Advance planning can help answer these questions and more.”
Following are five tips from ACAAI to help college students get ahead in taking the lead in the care of their allergies and asthma as they head off from home for the first time.
- Meet with your allergist – Make an appointment with your allergist before or soon after you graduate to discuss some of your important questions. Find out if your prescriptions need to be updated or changed. Will the climate be different? Sometimes a new geographic location means more (or less) pollen or different asthma triggers. If your mom or dad has been the main point person, it’s time for you to step into the role. Ask for a referral to an allergist in your new location and scout out where you’ll be able to pick up prescriptions. ACAAI has an allergist locator that can help you find an allergist in your new town.
- Good communication can help ease the transition - Before you leave, contact school administrators to discuss necessary arrangements for your dorm room, meals or transportation around campus. The nearest hospital facility may not be equipped to treat patients with special medical needs, so ask about the best facility in case of emergency. Contact the school’s office of disabilities if special provisions are needed, and make sure they have any documentation needed to provide special services.
- You gonna eat that? – College dorm food, while sometimes awful, can also be dangerous if you have food allergies. Your school should have special accommodations for students with food allergies. Look into how the cafeterias confirm the ingredients in the food they serve. Either in advance or once you arrive, talk to food handlers about safety standards. Ask about ingredients at every meal or snack. You probably already carefully read labels, but make sure your friends, roommate and resident adviser know about your food allergies. It’s your job to educate others about your allergies.
- Step up your vigilance – Be aware that impaired judgment from drug or alcohol use increases your risk for accidental ingestion of foods that cause anaphylaxis. There are also risks associated with intimacy, and the potential for partners to transfer food allergens through saliva. Discussions surrounding drugs, alcohol and sexual activity are never easy, but your allergist may be a great resource for information on these topics.
- Dorm rooms don’t have to be dirty – It’s more or less expected that dorm rooms can get messy, but cleaning can help you keep seasonal allergies in check, as well as allergies to mold or dust. Remember to bring cleaning supplies you already know work for you. An allergy-proof pillow and mattress casings can protect you from dust mites. Carry and store your belongings in airtight plastic containers to cut down on dust and keep dorm windows closed to prevent pollen and dust from entering.
A board-certified allergist can help identify and treat your allergic symptoms and create an action plan so you can live the life you want. For more information about allergies and asthma, and to locate an allergist in your area, visit AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org.