When packing for a student to live away at college, don’t forget to assemble a comprehensive first aid kit. Think beyond just ibuprofen and Band-Aids when creating this kit for a dorm room. On-campus Health Services are often not available 24 hours a day and some things can be handled easily if the right supplies are on hand. Students need more than the typical store-bought first aid kit that contains only one or two doses of medications and a few bandages. Stocking your own first aid kit also allows you to choose your preferred brands and ensure that the medications have a longer shelf life by selecting the latest-possible expiration dates. A typical first aid kit should include the basic tools and equipment needed for cuts, bumps and bruises:
- adhesive bandages – all shapes and sizes
- antiseptic wipe packets
- antibiotic ointment
- sterile gauze pads
- adhesive tape
- hydrocortisone ointment
- eye wash
- instant cold compresses
- hot packs
- elastic (Ace) bandage
This college-bound kit will be an extension of your medicine cabinet at home so it also needs to include:
- acetaminophen – aches and pains
- ibuprofen – pain, inflammation or swelling
- Benadryl – allergic reactions
- basic medications for cold and flu season
- seasonal allergy medicine
- anti-diarrhea pills
- antacids in case of indigestion
- athlete’s foot medicine
Be sure to include a copy of your child’s insurance card, the campus health center’s phone number, the phone number for your child’s physician and a list of any known allergies to medications.
A conversation on how to use all these new purchases will be helpful for many students living away from home for the first time. Before my son left for his freshman year at college we took an unhurried trip to the drugstore. We walked up and down each aisle, collecting what he needed, discussing why he may need it, with a brief explanation on how to use it. Being in a new situation, having an altered schedule and eating different foods can bring on a variety of digestive issues in the first few months that many students may have never dealt with before. Take some time to clarify why you included Imodium or Dulcolax, for example, and explain the difference between them. Before packing his first aid kit, I wrote on a few of the boxes with a sharpie to help him recall what each medication was to be used for. You could also include a short cheat sheet to refresh their memory a few months, or even two years later. You may also want to have a conversation about when this “kit” is appropriate and in what circumstances the Campus Health Services would be a better choice.
Purchase a durable box to contain all these supplies AFTER you have amassed all the items – to ensure everything will fit. Remove some items like bandages from their original boxes and use plastic zip-top storage bags to save space. Try to leave the medications in their original boxes; but if space is critical, cut out the instruction panel and include it in the baggie of medication. Remember that all first aid kits need to be restocked occasionally. Check expiration dates and replace any used or out-of-date contents each year before your child heads back to school. (This is a good time to do an inventory of your own supplies at home, too.)
Packing the first-aid kit is only part of the process to prepare a student for any medical issues that might arise at school. You will also need three forms: a HIPAA authorization form, a Health Care proxy (naming you as the child’s agent) and a Power of Attorney. Once a child reaches 18 years old, a parent no longer has the right to receive medical information – even if the child is covered under the parents’ health insurance, and the parents are paying the bill.
The HIPAA form will allow any medical professionals to share general information such as diagnoses, medications, and test results. The Health Care proxy gives permission for you to participate in medical decisions. The Power of Attorney allows you to carry on financial affairs in the event that your child become disabled.*
Check to see if the school has the HIPAA authorization forms online. If your student will attend college out of state, fill out the forms relevant to your home state and the school’s state to avoid any disputes; and if the school has its own form, sign that too. Better to be safe than sorry.
Once all the forms are completed, scan and save them so that they are readily available online or to be printed out on a home computer. I sent my son to school with a copy to keep in his files, and another for him to drop off at Campus Health Services. He did take a trip to the emergency room in his sophomore year for an elbow through his lower lip during a basketball game, but thankfully that was the only excitement in his four years.
*You don’t need a lawyer to do this but it may be beneficial in certain circumstances; for example, making sure you are using the right form, explaining how to use it in an emergency, or advocating on your behalf in case something goes .