Are Your Allergies and Asthma Ready for College?
Going away to college for the first time can be nerve-wracking, and questions abound. How will you find your way around? Will your classes be too hard? What will the other students be like? Students who suffer from allergies and asthma may also be asking: “Can I keep my symptoms under control?”
“College is a new environment for young people,” says allergist Stanley Fineman, MD, FACAAI, past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “A different sort of preparation has to take place for those with allergies and asthma going away to school. They need to consider dorm food, dorm environment and perhaps a new climate if they’re moving to a different part of the country. Students can work with their allergists to put together an action plan to address triggers and keep symptoms under control.”
Following are tips from ACAAI to help college students stay safe, have fun – and enjoy a new learning experience!
Start prepping well before you leave – If Mom and Dad have been handling allergist appointments or picking up prescriptions, it’s time for you – the almost-freshman – to take over. Taking responsibility for your healthcare needs before you go is an important transition step. Figure out what’s involved in keeping yourself healthy and what triggers to avoid. Contact the school’s office of disabilities if special provisions are needed, and make sure they have any documentation needed to provide special services.
Study up! On what’s available on campus – Find out what the campus health service provides before you arrive. Can they fill your prescriptions, and do they understand the nature of your symptoms and triggers? Ask if they offer nebulizer treatments or can transport students to a nearby hospital or urgent care facility. If you use a peak flow meter, bring it with you, along with spacers and an adequate supply of up-to-date prescription medications. If you carry an epinephrine auto-injector, make sure you have at least two on hand.
Cleaning while at college? – Contrary to popular belief, you may have to clean while at college – especially if you’re allergic to mold or dust. Take the cleaning supplies you know work for you. Remember your allergy-proof pillow and mattress casings to 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.
Food, glorious food – 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.
Let others be part of your team – Tell your roommate and friends about your allergies, how to recognize a severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, and where you keep your epinephrine. They should also be aware of what foods and triggers you have to avoid, to help keep you safe.
A board-certified allergist can help identify and treat your allergic symptoms, and create an action plan to deal with triggers. For more information about allergies and asthma, and to locate an allergist in your area,