Sure, ointments, pain relievers, and Band-Aids are standard college first aid kit essentials, but these days, so is lifesaving Narcan and so much more. This handy checklist can help ensure your child has everything they need, when they need it most.
Going to college can be scary for many students.
For the first time in their lives, they will be on their own, forced to make decisions about things they never really had to think about before, such as what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; when to clean; and most importantly, what to do when they get hurt.
While you can’t be there for every little thing, you can send them off with a first aid kit that will help them deal with some things on their own, including lifesaving Narcan to prevent an opioid overdose. Given the increasing number of teens reporting opioid use and the rising threat of fentanyl, it’s never been more important to educate our children on the effects of both — and to arm them with the tools that can save their life or the life of someone else. You’ll be able to sleep a little more soundly knowing that your child is prepared.
Each child is different and has different needs when it comes to medicines, but when you’re thinking about the general essentials that go into that kit, here’s what you should know.
What Should Be in a College First Aid Kit?
A first aid kit should be comprised of multiple categories of items, including medicines, insurance cards, and to some extent, medical “equipment.” It’s important to encompass all of these areas as each has its purpose in a time of emergency.
Essential Medicine to Include in a College First Aid Kit:
Excedrin works wonders by eliminating headaches and can also serve as a slight pain reliever.
Antacids are useful in treating heartburn as they will work to lower the acid in your stomach, which can also provide relief of belching, bloating, and other stomach pains.
Antidiarrheal medicine prevents diarrhea by slowing and limiting the bowel movements of the stomach.
Cold/Cough Medicine is used to treat common colds or coughs.
Cough Drops to minimize coughing.
Hydrocortisone Cream attends to a wide variety of skin conditions, most notably bug bites, poison ivy, eczema, and general itching.
Antibacterial Ointment is great for preventing infection in minor wounds and pairs well with Band-Aids.
Seasonal allergy medication, known as antihistamines, relieve sneezing, itching, a stuffy or runny nose, and watery eyes on days when pollen counts are high.
Naloxone (Narcan) nasal spray to reverse an opioid overdose. It blocks the effects of opiates on the brain and restores breathing. Free Narcan kits may be available from your state or local health department.
Fentanyl test strips to prevent drug overdoses and reduce harm. These small strips of paper can detect the presence of fentanyl in different kinds of drugs and drug forms, including pills, powders, and injectables. While more and more states are legalizing the use of these strips, a few still do not allow it, so be sure to check with your state health department.
Additional Equipment to Include in a College First Aid Kit:
Band-Aids in different sizes for minor cuts and scrapes.
Ace Bandages can be used to heal muscle sprains and strains.
Surgical Tape to help hold bandages in place when needed.
A Roll of Gauze for bleeding or draining wounds.
Pulse Oximeters are used to check the flow of oxygen throughout your body.
Ice packs are crucial for slowing and stopping the swelling of numerous types of injuries.
Important Medical Tips Before Leaving for College
While the first aid kit may provide some peace of mind as you send your child off, there are still a few more important items and steps to follow before you are officially done.
- Once you have completed your first aid kit, the most important thing is that your child knows how and when to use every item in it. One parent from the Paying For College 101 Facebook group places a white sticker label on the medicine she gives her child: “dosages, when to use, contraindications, etc.” This is especially important if your kit includes lifesaving Narcan and fentanyl test strips.
- Have your child make a copy of their insurance card along with the original and be sure one is carried on them at all times whether it’s in their wallet or elsewhere.
- Schedule a doctor’s appointment before leaving and be sure your child has all of the vaccinations they require. Meningitis, whooping cough, and HPV are all common vaccines to receive before college.
- Once a child turns 18 and becomes a legal adult, their parents are no longer allowed access to certain medical information without their child’s approval. This can become problematic if a child is incapacitated and parents need specific knowledge that they normally wouldn’t have access to. To avoid this, and with your child’s permission, fill out a medical release form.
- Similarly, filling out a form for the healthcare power of attorney (POA) gives parents/guardians permission to make decisions for a child. As explained by a parent in our Facebook group, “the POA is used to designate a surrogate decision-maker if the patient/student is unable to make their own decisions.”
- If your child is going to a school in an area commonly affected by natural disasters, make them aware of the proper protocols should a situation arise.
- Finally, be sure your child is aware of the nearest hospitals and the location of any emergency clinics on campus.
Sending a child off to college is equally as scary for the parents as it is for the students, but if you follow the proper steps and take precautions, you can alleviate the stress that comes with it.
–Matthew Schwartz contributed to this article.
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