At some point, everyone must start to make decisions about their own healthcare. Where a parent may have made the decisions in the past, anyone who moves out on their own will have to remember to book their own appointments, refill their prescriptions on time, and seek help from the nearest available provider, when needed. Below are a few tips to help you be successful at managing your asthma while you are away at school.
TIP: Prepare to manage your asthma while at school
As you are packing all the essentials for your dorm room be sure to prepare for managing your asthma while you are away from your current healthcare provider. Below are a few things to remember to do prior to leaving for school.
- Make sure you refill all your prescriptions – including your quick-relief inhaler, controller medication, nebulizer (if you use one). Consider moving your prescription to somewhere easily assessable when you are on campus.
- Work with your healthcare provider to create or update your asthma action plan. This set of instructions is a great tool in case you have a flare up or emergency. This information can also be stored in your phone by utilizing the emergency card. Also, be sure to bring copies of your asthma action plan with you to school.
- Talk to your parents about whether you will be still on their health insurance or if you will be utilizing the school health insurance plan.
- Identify potential healthcare providers, asthma specialists or primary care providers, that are part of your health insurance plan so you can schedule an appointment with to continue your regular asthma care.
- If you haven’t scheduled a doctor’s appointment by yourself yet, talk to your parents about how to make an appointment.
TIP: Be aware of new asthma triggers you may encounter
As you embark on a new environment you may encounter new triggers that you haven’t encountered in your hometown. If you are moving into a more rural area, you may recognize an increase in tree and grass pollen. Additionally, the location of your school can potentially have a lower air quality level. For instance, if your school is in a major city, you may encounter smog and air pollution. Lastly, the area in which your school is located may have a different climate than your hometown. Extreme heat and cold can also cause you a problem if you are not used to it. All these triggers can cause asthma symptoms to occur when they typically wouldn’t.
In addition, change is one of the most common causes of stress, which can be an asthma trigger. Moving into a new environment and being out on your own for the first time can trigger more severe symptoms. Having resources to manage these symptoms and people to contact in an emergency—not only helps during an asthma flare-up but can also contribute to overall improvement of mental health.
TIP: Educate your friends and roommates on your asthma
As a new college student, you will find that dorm rooms are perfect places for asthma triggers to hide. As the months go on, sharing a space with someone new who may have very different hygiene habits can lead to infestations of dust, mold and even pests. So, when choosing a dorm at the beginning of the semester, you should make sure to choose options that limit your exposure to those triggers. For instance, try to get nonsmoking, and no pet dorms.
Once you have settled in your dorm make sure to tell your roommate(s), suitemates and friends that you have asthma and what your triggers are. Also, tell your resident assistant (RA) that you have asthma and give them a copy of your asthma action plan. In case of an emergency, let your roommate(s), suitemates and RA know where you keep your quick-relief inhaler in case they need to help you.
TIP: Understand Health Insurance and have asthma resources on hand
For college students, understanding your insurance is essential. Many young adults may be covered on their parents’ health insurance policy for a short while, but they will eventually need to have their own. Some universities offer on-campus healthcare centers which are more conveniently located but may have out-of-network providers. If that is the case, you should identify and write down the nearest location with in-network providers for easy access in case of emergency. All this information can be saved on the emergency card on your phone.
Many colleges have health educators, as part of the health center, that can help answer any questions or concerns you may have about managing your asthma in a new setting.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, the American Lung Association offers several helpful resources on our website, Lung.org. For instance, Asthma Basics offers comprehensive resources, including asthma medication devices and demonstration videos and downloads for your convenience. You can also contact our Lung Helpline at any time to talk directly to a lung health professional.
Blog last updated: January 17, 2023