Around this time every year, a new set of young people move on from childhood and join the “adult ranks.” As a young general internist, I see many of these young people in my office for school and work physicals and check-ups because they’ve become too old to see their pediatricians. Over time, I’ve found myself repeating several pieces of health advice for adolescents and young adults leaving home for the first time to venture out on their own. Below are some helpful tips for the young-adult child, grandchild, sibling, niece/nephew, or mentee in your life. Note however that some of these are things that we are never too old to hear. Please review and share accordingly.
If you are going away to school or relocating temporarily, establish care with a primary care physician in your home town. It’s important to have a physician that you can “come home to” for school/work physicals, needed vaccinations, medication refills, and/or both acute and chronic medical ailments. When away at school or on some type of temporary work assignment, it’s likely that you will only be back home during brief 2- to 5-day stints, many of which will center around holidays. These can be tough times to get in to see a primary care physician for a new-patient visit. Thus, already having a relationship with a primary care physician will prove to be convenient in the event that you need to be seen for some reason. I would also make it a point to connect with a physician that has an integrated electronic medical record system complete with patient communication capabilities. Many of my younger patients find it beneficial to be able to connect with my office via email for minor requests and questions, saving them the time and effort of trying to find a doctor’s office out of town to get in to.
If you are going away to school or relocating temporarily AND you also have a chronic medical condition, such as asthma, depression/anxiety, severe allergies, or some sort of pain syndrome, you should also establish care with a primary care physician away from home. Student health departments are limited in terms of the services they can offer; urgent care centers can be crowded and cannot provide follow-up care when needed; and hospital emergency rooms come with long waits and large bills. You never know when you may need to seek urgent medical attention, so having a relationship with a physician close by will prove to be beneficial in terms of time and money.
Keep a smart medicine cabinet, which includes the following:
- Tylenol or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen for headaches and other minor pains
- Benadryl or a similar antihistamine for mild allergic reactions and allergy-symptom flairs
- A multi-system cold tablet or syrup for minor cold symptoms
- Cough drops
- Hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol
- Assorted-size bandages
- A mild steroid cream, such as hydrocortisone
If you are sexually active, use condoms until you are married. No further explanation needed here.
Develop healthy habits. College and young adulthood are the times we find our true selves; become independent; have fun; learn about love; in some cases, start families; and become out of shape. The out of shape part does not have to happen. It’s important for you to develop healthy habits that will add longevity and quality to your life.
- Learn to cook
- Minimize fast food
- Get in the habit of working out 3-5 days per week
- Beware of binge drinking
- Do not start smoking cigarettes
- If you have already started, stop smoking cigarettes