Allercy and Asthma Health
The Official Publication of AAN - MA

Don’t Let Asthma Jeopardize Your College Education


By Walton B. Wilson, MHS, RRT

You have received the acceptance letter from the college or university, and the anticipation you’ve felt about the transformation to a college student is now a reality. For a student with asthma, this transformation must include planning and personal responsibility for management of the condition.

According to the 2013 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Asthma Facts, college aged adults between 18 and 24 have the highest prevalence of asthma, at 10.3%. Environmental and emotional changes that you will encounter once you leave home can have a significant impact on your asthma.

Here are some recommendations to help with the transition:

Before you leave home, know your asthma management plan and maintain it independently. If you do not have an asthma management plan, you should schedule an appointment with your health care provider to develop and implement one. Provide your health care provider with the pharmacy information where you will be relocating.

Dorm life — “Your momma don’t live here!” You will need to keep your dorm room (or apartment) as clean as possible. Dust mites remain one of the most common triggers of asthma, so you have to wash your bedding on a regular basis. Small room air filters or purifiers are beneficial in older dorms or other dwellings where mold, pet dander, smoke, or other allergens are common. If your roommate smokes and/or bathes in perfume or cologne, you may need to request another room or roommate.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. First and foremost, do not change your asthma management plan! You are in college and there will be distractions, but you have to stay focused. Always carry your rescue inhaler. Do not skip dosages of long-acting medications, such as steroids. Keep your immunizations up to date, especially the flu vaccine. Monitor your peak flow and recognize when you need to slow down or seek medical attention.

Take care of yourself. Be sure to eat healthy, drink plenty of water, and get a lot of rest. College life will provide many opportunities that can be hazardous to someone with asthma. Avoid cigarette smoke (or any other smoke), and please do not give in to peer pressure and start smoking!

Relax, you’ve got this! Stress can be the worst asthma trigger of them all. Schedule a manageable coarse load, especially your first semester or two. Schedule classes within a reasonable distance to avoid the anxiety of rushing from one end of campus to the other. Always stay aware of the weather and climate conditions and be prepared for cold, dry air or high pollen counts. Make every attempt to avoid staying up all night studying. Consider alternating 30-minute study periods with 30 minutes of relaxation. Do not hesitate to seek help from your instructor or a tutor if you are having difficulty with the material. Every college and university has counselling resources available, so use them if you need them.

College life is a challenge for everyone, but with a good plan, asthma will not hinder your success.

Walton Wilson is a member of the American Association for Respiratory Care from Natchez, MS, where he is program director for the respiratory care technology program at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. He is also president of the Mississippi Society for Respiratory Care.

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