For millions of high school seniors, the summer after graduation is a full one. There is no shortage of parties, summer cookouts or afternoons spent by the pool. There’s a lot to look forward to — and a lot to prepare for.
Going to college is the first time many young adults will be away from their parents and their home. With this newfound freedom comes new responsibilities, especially for those with allergies and asthma.
“For most teens, going away to college marks their first time living on their own,” says allergist Bradley Chipps, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “In addition to moving to a new place, many teens must learn to manage their own schedule, diet, exercise and health. Young people may find their allergies and asthma neglected due to other, seemingly more important demands for their time.”
If you or someone in your family has allergies or asthma and is headed off to college this fall, here are five tips from ACAAI on how to prepare for the transition.
1. Make time now to see your allergist — Schedule an appointment with your allergist now to discuss plans for the fall. During this visit you should ask for a referral to an allergist close to where you’re going to college, as well as a complete copy of your records, including medications, lab work and allergy test results.
2. Start practicing good self-management — The best line of defense against allergy and asthma attacks starts with you! Know your triggers and always be aware of risk factors when you go into a new environment. Carry your asthma medications with you in case of a flare-up.
3. Set up a network — It’s easy to leave things to parents, but once you move out, you’ll need to take an active role in your health. Whether you’re going 100 or 1,000 miles away, you’ll need to contact school administrators to discuss necessary arrangements for your dorm room and meals. If you’re moving far from home, along with a new allergist, identify new primary care and specialty physicians, as well as a new pharmacy.
4. Talk to the folks who’ll make your food — If you have a food allergy, plan to talk to food handlers and 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.
5. Have an emergency plan — Anyone at risk for a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, needs to always have immediate access to epinephrine auto injectors. Almost every fatality from food allergy involves lack of timely use of epinephrine. Even when you’re at the gym or out with friends, find a way to keep two doses of epinephrine on hand.
Allergists are the best trained professionals to diagnose and treat allergies and asthma. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the fall, contact your allergist or, if you need help finding one, visit the ACAAI allergist locator.
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