College can pose challenges for the student with asthma. New and unfamiliar living quarters, school and social stresses, and other factors can trigger a flare-up. As always, prevention is important: Do your best to avoid triggers and to stay healthy. Update your asthma action plan, including how to deal with emergencies. These tips can help.
Before you leave for college, review your triggers with your allergist, pulmonologist, or primary care provider. Then review this list to see what adjustments you may need to make to your living area:
If your dormitory has an old heating or cooling system, buy an inexpensive vent filter or see if your budget can handle a more expensive HEPA air cleaner. Change the filter often.
If mold is present or you have a roommate who smokes, ask about changing rooms. A doctor’s note may help you avoid a room-change fee.
When rooms are being assigned, be sure to be placed in a room with hardwood or linoleum flooring (not wall-to-wall carpeting).
Try to get a room with forced hot water (rather than forced hot air) heating.
Don’t furnish your room with secondhand rugs and upholstered furniture, or you may end up with extra unwelcome roommates: dust mites.
Cover your mattress and pillows with dust mite covers.
Wash linens weekly with hot water and vacuum your room regularly. If your roommates won’t help you clean, offer to do it yourself in exchange for another favor.
Put scarves on your holiday wish list. They’re good for covering your face during wintry walks across campus.
Staying away from asthma triggers is one piece of the asthma-management picture. Another is staying healthy, a tall order for any college student.
Ask your doctor which vaccines you need. Many people with asthma need annual flu vaccines and also get vaccines for meningitis and hepatitis B. Check with your student health center about low-cost options.
Help prevent the spread of infection by washing your phone and handset weekly. Wash your hands often.
Eat balanced meals, get regular exercise, and get plenty of sleep; all three can help you stay healthy. And avoid all-nighters; the stress on your body can increase the risk of an asthma attack.
If you’re sick, take care of yourself. You may feel as though you’re missing out, but you’ll miss more if you end up with a serious asthma attack. Check with your professors and administrators about attendance policies and tell them about any special needs you have.
If academic pressures, social challenges, or other stressors get to be too much for you to handle, look into student counseling services. They are often free or available at a reduced fee.
Being responsible for all your medications may take a little getting used to. Start by discussing your medications with your asthma specialist. Here are other things that can help you manage your medications:
Watch for warning signs of worsening asthma, which signal that you may need to adjust your medications. Use your peak-flow meter to help monitor changes. Be sure to tell your doctor about any sudden onset of symptoms.
Create a portable medication supply case. Inside, pack medications, a copy of your asthma action plan, telephone numbers for your asthma specialist, and local numbers for 24-hour care and emergency services. Make sure your roommates and friends know where to find this information, too.
If you’re taking allergy shots to prevent symptoms, find a doctor at your school who can continue giving them to you. You can probably find one at your school health center.
Find an asthma specialist on campus.