Preparing Your College Student to Seek Urgent Care Far From Home

One of the most challenging things about sending your child off to college is worrying about their health and safety, especially when they’re far away from home. That first phone call when they’re sick can be agonizing, especially if they need to see a doctor. The next best thing to being there when they’re sick is preparing them before they leave for college to seek urgent care.

In this article, we’ll discuss some tips straight from Pivotal Health clinicians for parents to help their college students prepare for illness and seek urgent care when they’re away at college.

Discuss your health insurance with your college student before they leave for college.

Before your child heads off to college, there are several things they absolutely need regarding their health insurance plan, including:

  • Their own physical copy of their health insurance card – not a photo of one on their phone. Trust us that the photo will get lost in all their other photos.
  • They need to know how their insurance plan works. Do you have a high-deductible plan? What’s the copay for urgent care? What’s the name of the plan and where can they go that’s in-network?
  • They need to know the birthday (day/month/year) of the person who holds their health insurance, such as one of their parents. 

If your student is not on your health insurance plan but needs it for college, check with your child’s school to see if they offer a student health insurance plan, such as SHIP (Student Health Insurance Plan) at UW-Madison.

Teach your child about common illnesses and injuries.

Your child may have a general understanding of common illnesses and injuries, but it’s important to talk to them about the symptoms of common illnesses like pink eye, influenza, strep throat, gastroenteritis (stomach flu), and mononucleosis, as well as injuries. Educate them about viruses and bacteria — and how antibiotics don’t work on viruses. Help them understand self-care for these common illnesses, when they should seek medical attention, and what type of care they may need.

Send a first aid kit with your student to college.

Speaking of self-care, a basic first aid kit is useful for your college student when they have mild illnesses or injuries they can treat themselves. Look for items like bandages, antibiotic ointment, loperamide (Imodium), acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin), and a thermometer. Make sure your child knows how to use each item in the kit and keep it in a location that’s easily accessible.

Research convenient urgent care and emergency options.

Before your child heads off to college, research convenient urgent care options. If they have an iphone, they can keep this information as a note in the “Notes” app on their iPhone so they can access it easily. As travel for new college students in a new city can be stressful while they’re not feeling well, determine if they’ll have any convenient options, like Pivotal Health. Pivotal Health clinicians do house calls for urgent careprimary care, and mental health care and travel right to your student for the appointment, even in the dorms.

Talk to your child about their medical history, family medical history, and health risks.

Make sure your child knows their medical history, including any allergies, chronic conditions, and medications they’re taking. If they have a chronic condition like asthma or diabetes, they absolutely need to learn how to manage it on their own and have any necessary medication and supplies on hand. Encourage your child to keep their medical history and any relevant medical documents in a safe and accessible location.

Encourage your child to seek help when needed.

Perhaps the most important tip is to encourage your child to seek help when they need it. Many college students are hesitant to seek medical attention, either because they’re afraid of the cost or because they don’t want to miss class. Remind your child that their health and well-being are the most important things, and encourage them to seek medical attention if they’re feeling unwell or are injured.

Preparing your college student to independently seek urgent care when they’re away at college can be a daunting task, but with these tips, you can help ease your worries. By making sure your child knows about their health insurance, common illnesses and injuries, and convenient urgent care, you can help ensure that your child stays healthy and safe while away at college.


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