8 Smart Ways to Manage Asthma in College

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

When your child heads off to college, you might worry about his health, like whether he’ll eat right or get enough rest. But parents whose college kids have asthma have an added concern—managing a chronic illness. Here are eight tips that may help your student cope.

1. Make sure he knows about his medications

This may sound like common sense, but even some parents don’t know exactly what each asthma medication does or how to use it correctly. Have your child practice at home before leaving for school. This can help to reassure you as well as making your child more comfortable with his own medical care.

Also, be sure to let your student take the reins in doctor’s appointments before heading off to college so that he will be able to talk to a new doctor should the need arise.

2. Preorder meds, if possible

Sometimes, if you are ordering your medications in bulk, you can get up to a six-month supply at a time. This may actually hold your student until the first break. Of course, that means that she will have to keep good track of where she stores her medication. (Have you seen how messy dorm rooms can get?)

3. Check on health insurance

Some health insurance carriers or state-funded insurance programs will not work in other states. If your child is on your policy it is important to find out which states are included for coverage.

Usually there is a clause for out-of-network emergencies, so be sure you know the rules regarding that to avoid the surprise of a huge bill later. Many schools offer health insurance plans for their students; just make sure it doesn’t duplicate what you already have because premiums can be expensive.

4. Find the health service

This may sound pretty basic, but on a huge campus finding the school’s medical professionals can be difficult, so it’s wise to get familiar with it now. Most school health services can handle the basics, but if they can’t they will refer your child to a doctor in the area or an emergency room.

5. Locate the nearest specialist

Check out the asthma specialists in the area near your child’s college. If you aren’t sure which doctor to use, ask the school health service for a recommendation.

If it’s at all possible, meet ahead of time with the doctor and make sure they have all of your child’s medical records, which can make the transition to a new doctor much easier. Always plan for a backup in case your child doesn’t like the doctor, the doctor moves, or the doctor is on vacation when your child needs to be seen.

6. Pick out the right hospital emergency department

Make sure that you know where the closet emergency department is in your child’s college town. Depending on the size of the town there may be more than one available. Be sure to pick the one that takes your insurance and has the best reputation. Again, this is where you might want to seek out a recommendation from the school health service.

7. Learn which pharmacy will take your insurance

We know this issue very well; not all pharmacies will take your prescription coverage. You have two options: You can find a pharmacy that will accept your insurance, or you can mail order most prescriptions.

8. Make it easy to pay for meds

Medication can be expensive, even with insurance. Sometimes you can use a Health Reimbursement Account to be used only for medical needs (so you don’t have to worry about your child spending it on a shopping spree).

You can use a reloadable credit card or set up your child with a checking account and transfer the amount needed for the prescription right when they need it. Whatever the method, it is important for your child to be able to pick up those prescriptions as needed.

What else to know

While some of these suggestions may sound like nagging, remember that you know your child best. Some college students won’t need much reminding while others may need to be prompted frequently. Students who have asthma under good control may also require less reminding or outside help than a child whose asthma is not in good control.

Either way, you’ll ensure that your child can head off to college, enjoy the experience, and keep breathing clearly.

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.