Soon it will be the time of year when kids are heading off to college. Even before they hit the books, though, there are lessons to be learned. Here are five things to teach your college student before he or she leaves home:
1. Get help for depression. Starting college is exciting, but some kids may get homesick, struggle to make friends and face difficult classwork. Remind your son or daughter that it's common to feel down occasionally. But if those feelings are ongoing or make it hard to function, it's important to seek help because they could signal depression.
2. Know the risks of alcohol. Newfound freedom may entice your child to experiment with alcohol, particularly binge drinking - defined as consuming multiple alcoholic beverages in a short period of time. Make sure your child understands that binge drinking is dangerous and has been linked to car crashes, injuries, drunken driving arrests and sexual assaults.
3. Remove contacts before showering, swimming or using hot tubs. If you child wears contact lenses, he or she probably knows not to clean or store them in water. But it's also important to not wear contacts while in a shower, pool, lake or hot tub. Doing so increases the risk of a serious eye infection.
4. Be aware of meningococcal disease. Young people -especially those living in dorms- are most at risk for this infection that can cause kidney failure, hearing loss, limb amputation and even death. There's a vaccine that offers protection, and your child should get it before he or she starts school.
Although the vaccine doesn't prevent all types of meningococcal disease, it's important to know signs and symptoms of the disease, which may include: fever; a flat, pink to red to purple rash; nausea; vomiting; muscle aches; a sudden, severe headache; confusion; light sensitivity; a stiff neck along with headache and sensitivity to light.
Meningococcal disease needs to be treated right away.
5. Pass up the ancient pizza. Pizza is a staple in many college students' diets. Even though your child may be tempted to nosh on slices that have been left out all night, it's not a good idea. Eating perishable foods (and that does include pizza) that have been unrefrigerated for more than two hours can make you sick.
Sources: American Academy of Ophthalmology; American Academy of Pediatrics; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Agriculture