Helping Your Student When They Are Sick

Learning to Take Care of Themselves

With students living together in residence halls and apartments, eating together in the dining hall, and sitting closely together in classrooms, illnesses and infections can spread easily. Remember when your child started preschool and brought home every cold? It’s a bit like that, except this time they must manage it on their own. Expect that the first time your college student gets sick on campus will be tough for both of you. As a parent or guardian, you know most colds and minor illnesses can be managed with extra fluids and rest, and your student will likely be feeling better soon. It is not necessary for your student to see a health care provider every time he or she is under the weather, especially for things like colds.

For many students, attending college is the first time they will be living away from you.  You probably have advised and guided their health needs most of their lives. As they became teens, they have developed more self awareness. Your student should continue to develop self-awareness of their physical and emotional well-being and continue to learn to be proactive with self-care practices that are important to their success at school and beyond. There are many things for your student to consider when it comes to taking care of themselves while at school, and your student can learn more about knowing what their body needs to feel its best.

Teach Your Student to Treat a Minor Illness or Injury Themselves

There is a lot your student can do on their own to treat a minor injury or illness. Keeping basic first aid and over-the-counter medications on hand can help them manage some minor issues. Many campus convenience stores, book stores, and sometimes vending machines sell the items your student needs to self-treat scrapes, colds, headaches, and other minor illnesses and injuries.

Always advise your student to seek medical care if they are unsure about their symptoms or if their symptoms don’t improve or worsen. 

Talk with your student about the basics of treating a minor illness or injury.

Help Create A Self-Care Survival Kit

You can also help your student by helping them to put together a Self-Care Survival Kit.

Self-care items to have on hand

Help Your Student to Prevent Illness

No one likes to get sick, and even a minor illness like a cold can be overwhelming for your student. Fortunately, there are some simple steps they can take to prevent common illnesses like colds and flu.

Illness Prevention 101

Discuss When and Where to Go for Treatment

While the newness of college is still setting in and your student is navigating classes and new expectations, not feeling well physically or emotionally can be tough! If your student is new to campus or simply managing this for the first time themselves, the unfamiliarity of what to do can bring an added challenge.

Some of these barriers can be managed by knowing when to seek care, where to go for care, and what it will be like when they go. Read more about seeking care for physical illness and injuries, when to seek help, seeking care for emotional or mental health issues, and where to go for treatment here. As part of learning to care for themselves, encourage your student to keep the phone number for the student health and wellness centers handy. Due to HIPAA law, your student will need to schedule appointments on their own, so it’s important that they know where to call for their medical needs.

Help Your Student Learn to Protect Their Emotional Well-Being

Your student’s emotional well-being is just as important to their success as their physical well-being. Since our thoughts, feelings, and actions are all interconnected, it is integral for your student to take steps to protect their emotional health and to manage stress. That’s where self-care comes in. Oxford Dictionary defines self-care  as “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during times of stress.” Discuss with your student how they can practice self-care to help manage stressors.

If your student’s school provides on-campus counseling or mental health services, encourage your student to know where and how to access treatment. Knowing where to find the phone number to schedule appointments and what their appointment policy is (for example, does the counseling center allow walk-in or same-day appointments?) can help your student manage their emotional and mental well-being.