Going off to college is a major transition. It can be an exciting time filled with new people and experiences. But it also puts you in a new environment, and change can be hard.
Having a chronic condition like cystic fibrosis can make college a little more complicated, but certainly not impossible. Here are nine tips to help smooth the transition to college and ensure that you get the most out of the next four years.
When you’re in college, going out for pizza can seem like a splurge. With limited funding, you may be concerned about meeting the cost of your cystic fibrosis treatment.
Along with medication, you need to consider the price of a nebulizer, chest physical therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, and other treatments that control your symptoms. Those costs can add up quickly.
Many college students are still on their parents’ health insurance. But even with good coverage, copays for cystic fibrosis medications can run into the thousands of dollars.
Many pharmaceutical companies offer assistance programs to help cover the high cost of cystic fibrosis medications.
Colleges are more equipped to meet the necessities of students with special needs than they were a few decades ago.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), schools are required to provide reasonable accommodations based on a student’s health needs. Most colleges should have an office of accommodations to handle these requests.
Have a conversation with the doctor and healthcare team that treats your cystic fibrosis. Ask them which accommodations might be most useful to you at school. Some ideas include:
- a reduced course load
- extra breaks during classes
- the ability to take classes or tests at specific times of the day or a private test site
- the option to video conference certain classes, or have another student take notes or record classes for you when you don’t feel well enough to go
- extensions on project due dates
- a private room, a room with air conditioning, and/or a private bathroom
- access to a vacuum with a HEPA filter
- a close parking spot on campus
When you head off to college, you’re also leaving behind your medical care team at home. Your same doctor will still be in charge of your overall care, but you’ll need someone on campus or close by to handle:
- prescription refills
- day-to-day care
To ease the transition, set up an appointment with a doctor on campus before you get to school. Ask them to refer you to a cystic fibrosis specialist in the area. Coordinate the transfer of your medical records with your doctor at home.
Bring at least one month’s supply of medication to school, along with a set of prescriptions. If you’re using a mail-order pharmacy, make sure they have your correct college address. Rent or buy a refrigerator for your dorm room for medication that needs to be kept cool.
Keep a document or binder handy with the names of all your medications. Include the dosage you take for each one, the prescribing doctor, and pharmacy.
Sleep is essential for everyone. It’s especially important for people with cystic fibrosis. Your body needs to recharge so it can effectively fight off infections.
Most college students are chronically sleep-deprived. More than
To avoid falling into unhealthy sleep habits, schedule your classes for later in the morning when possible. Try to get a full eight hours of sleep on school nights. Keep up with your work or get deadline extensions, so you don’t have to pull any all-nighters.
With such a busy course load, it’s easy to overlook exercise. Staying active is good for your lungs, as well as the rest of body. Try to do something active each day, even if it’s just taking a 10-minute walk across campus.
Classes, homework, and tests aren’t your only responsibilities. You also have to manage your cystic fibrosis. Set aside specific times during the day when you can do your treatments without being interrupted.
When you have cystic fibrosis, you need to eat a certain number of calories to maintain your weight. However, it’s also important to watch what you eat to make sure you’re following a healthy and balanced diet.
If you’re unsure about the number of calories you need on a daily basis and healthy food options, ask your doctor to help you create a meal plan.
Living in the close quarters of a college dorm room, you’re bound to encounter lots of bugs. College campuses are notoriously germy places — especially shared bathrooms and kitchen areas.
Because you’re more vulnerable than your fellow students to getting sick, you need to take a few extra precautions. Carry a bottle of hand sanitizer and apply it liberally throughout the day. Try to keep your distance from any students who are sick.
You’re about to enter an exciting time of life. Enjoy everything college has to offer. With a little preparation and good attention to your condition, you can have a healthy and successful college experience.