Asthma On Campus: Preparing to Go Away to University
Going away to college/university is a daunting experience even without having a chronic condition. For many people it is your first time with any autonomy from your family. As a young adult with asthma this independence is not without increases in responsibility. There are some things to start thinking about now along with how you'll decorate that residence hall room!
Asthma at school
I went to a university about 200 miles from home -- still inside my home state, but far enough that I rarely came home for just a weekend. Obviously the experience is very different if you are going to school just across town or in a neighboring town. Some of these issues will also come up if you are headed straight to full-time employment from high school. You will have similar adult obligations to take care of as you transition to the workforce. Here are some important things to consider as you head off to college:
Should my care team change?
Maybe this is the time at which you and your doctors feel you should transition from pediatric to adult care, or perhaps you'll continue with the current team throughout college. It could be that you and your care team feel it would be best for you to be followed by a doctor in the college town. I was delighted that my doctors back home were happy to work with the student health center. I was quite thrilled that I didn't need to establish a new care team.
Does my asthma action plan need updating?
Hopefully this isn't the first time you're getting a chance to give your asthma action plan a read through. Make sure the plan is clear enough for you to make care decisions for yourself without parental guidance. It's more fun to chat with family when you're not discussing peak flow readings.
Are there doctors, clinics, and pharmacies that are in-network for me in my college town?
Hopefully, there are plenty of all of the above. If not now is the time to see what options you might have, to change insurance, get referrals, or exemptions to out-of-network rules. The easiest solution could be to plan your routine visits around school breaks when you'll be home anyway. Now is also a good time to find out what if anything needs to change with your pharmacy situation. I had both an in-network pharmacy (with free delivery to campus) and the option to have mail-order shipped to my college address. Otherwise, your care packages from home may need to include inhalers.
Do I need a doctor's note for special housing placement or other accommodations?
The way things worked out for me I didn't have formal accommodations through disability services in place. Had I had an extended illness or an asthma attack during an exam this could've backfired on me. Talking to disability services or the housing office before the semester starts gives them time to make changes you need to have a successful semester. On my campus, disability services collaborated with the University Counseling Service to offer support groups for students with chronic illnesses. Had I talked to disability services I would've heard about this potentially useful group before I was a few weeks away from graduation.
In short adjusting to university living is relatively easy if you can find the right people on campus to ask for what you need. Self-advocacy, like many things, gets easier with practice. How did you prepare to move away from home for college or work?
Do you get muscle cramps caused by your asthma medicine?