You're 17 or 18 years old and you're about to embark on the biggest journey of your life -- going off to college. If you also have asthma, it's important to keep your health in mind as you get ready for college.
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) has come up with a simple approach to managing asthma in new situations, such as going on vacation... or off to college. It's called the PACK approach.
P = Plan Ahead
Think about what you will need to manage your asthma at college, including an adequate supply of your medications and a way to get more when you run out. Do you use a peak flow meter? If so, be sure to pack it. Review your Asthma Action Plan with your doctor and update it if necessary, so you'll know how to act if asthma problems should arise once you get to college.
A = Anticipate the Challenges to Come
Anticipate problems and allergens you'll come into contact with. Are smoking or pets allowed where you will be living? Is the college in a high pollen area or is the weather drastically different from where you live now? What kinds of cleaning solutions will be used? Will there be other irritants?
Have a good idea what you'll be facing and how you can minimize your exposure to the triggers that will exist. Make sure you have a rescue inhaler and know how and when to use it. And get your asthma under complete control before you go off to college, so that you're starting at your best.
C = Continue to Follow Your Asthma Treatment Plan to the Letter
There's a temptation, when you leave home, to act like one of the crowd or to let your new college lifestyle distract you from what you need to do on a daily basis to keep your asthma under control.
Don't let that happen! Your future depends on staying healthy. Unfortunately, we just don't get to take a break from our asthma, no matter how much we might like to do so. The efforts you take to keep your asthma controlled are well worth it in the long run.
K = Keep Emergency Contact Info Handy
Have a written record of your Asthma Action Plan, as well as the contact information for your asthma doctor in a safe place you can quickly access at school. Know where to go at or near your college to get emergency care, should it become necessary.
You may also want to look into finding an allergist or pulmonologist in the town or city where you'll be living, in case you need expert assistance during the school year. Make arrangements with your health insurance company in advance, if possible.
So, you see, with the right attitude and approach, you can keep your asthma under control once you go off to college. Show your parents and your doctor that you're well on the way to adulthood!