Sending your kids off to college for the first time can be scary for both the student and parents, especially if they will be in another city or state. Aside from the adjustments of living in a new city, students can feel overwhelmed by the pressures and challenges put on them. From getting good grades, to eating the right foods and alcohol and drug temptations, not to mention sexual pressures — it’s a lot to put on an emerging adult who has left the safety and security of their parent’s home.
Here are some reminders for students to stay healthy and safe, and they are good lessons for all of us:
Get Plenty of Sleep
This is a tough one for college students. It may be hard to avoid the pressure of going out to a party the night before you have an 8:00 class. Or conversely, they may pull an “all-nighter” to study for a big exam. Studies show that most adults should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep can be a risk factor for chronic diseases and conditions such as heart disease, obesity, depression, and even diabetes. Being sleepy throughout the day also makes it difficult to concentrate in class or while taking a test.
Regular exercise is not only good for your body, it’s also good for your mind. Find a friend who has the same interests as you, or try something new through intramural sports on campus. Tennis, running, dancing, or flag football all provide a good cardio workout and making friends along the way is a bonus! Just 2-½ hours a week, even working out for 10 minutes at a time, can improve your overall health and fitness.
With a vast array of food available on campus as well as local restaurants honoring university meal plan dollars, it’s easier than ever to pack on the Freshman 15. Eating food that is high in fat, calories, sugar, and salt will only drain your energy. For the best “fast-food” grab an apple or banana on the way to class. The school cafeteria will also always have a health option in hot vegetables or a salad bar for you to get foods that are a natural source of energy. Meal plan dollars will also go further on-campus than off-campus.
Did you know that about half of the 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) each year are among people aged 15-24 years old. For women, the long term effects of these diseases can include pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, tubal scarring, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain.
Even more scary is that about 1 in 4 of all new HIV infections is among youth ages 13 to 24 years. 4 out of 5 of those infections occur in males.
The CDC offers these tips:
- If you are a sexually active female aged 25 years or younger, get tested every year for chlamydia. If left untreated, chlamydia can affect your ability to have children.
- If you are diagnosed with an STD, notify your sex partners so they can be tested and receive treatment if needed.
- If your sex partner is diagnosed with an STD, you need to be evaluated, tested, and treated.
- The most reliable ways to avoid transmission of STDs, including HIV infection, are to abstain from sexual activity or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.
- Latex male and female condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of some STDs.
Avoid Harmful Substances
Pressures of the new college environment include alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes, especially when trying to make friends and become part of a group. Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks on one occasion for men, and four or more drinks per occasion for women. Alcohol and other drug abuse are major health problems in the US. Substance use and abuse can increase the chances of injuries, sexual violence, unintended pregnancy and STDs.
It’s also important for friends to stay together if you are going out for the evening. Tips from Help Save the Next Girl include:
- Check on friends when you haven’t heard from them
- Never let a friend leave alone
- Call someone you trust when you’re in trouble
- Always carry your cell phone
Keep an Emergency List
There are apps available for your phone that you can load with important information in case of emergency. You can list your name, height, weight, blood type, age, contact list, diseases, allergies, medications, doctors, pharmacy, and other relevant information that a medical professional needs to know about you to make fast decisions.