Taking care of oneself is often over looked while school shopping

Among the many things college-bound teens need to take care of when going off to school: themselves.

Often overlooked are health care needs such as up-to-date vaccinations, knowing how to reach a family physician, and knowing how to access campus health facilities.

Dr. Martin Lustick of Canandaigua, a pediatrician and senior vice president and corporate medical director with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, advises parents to make sure their sons and daughters have an annual checkup before school starts.

“Kids, when they go to college, are stepping out and learning how to be adults,” he said. “Not only do they need to navigate the health care business, but taking care of themselves, managing their living quarters and managing their diets. They don't have a parent there to make sure they're eating healthy foods or getting exercise.”

At their checkups, teens can get needed vaccinations and ask about taking caring of themselves and how to get their prescriptions filled.

He said college students are at risk for a substantial number of infectious diseases — whether transmitted sexually or by air — because they're living in large numbers in small quarters. He said parents should make sure their children are up to date on their vaccines, particularly against influenza, meningitis, cervical cancer and whooping cough.

“Meningitis can be life-threatening,” Lustick said. “These are really important vaccines for kids and parents to make sure they're up to date on.”

He said most students will be living on their own for the first time and need to learn about simple things such as knowing if there is a school clinic and how to access it, how to get in touch with their doctors back home or how to access a physician electronically through a telemedicine program, which is a lot like FaceTiming or Skyping, allowing face-to-face conversations with a doctor.

Lustick recommends each student have an insurance card and know how to get in touch with their doctor while they are away and find out whether they do video or telephone visits. He said they can save time by registering with their insurance company now for an online account instead of waiting until they need health care. For more information, visit ExcellusBCBS.com/HealthCareLive.

Lustick, former chief medical officer at Thompson Health, said doctors are always looking at timely issues in health care and find that autumn, when kids are returning to school or going off to school, is a good time to focus on them.

He said telemedicine is also a big issue in the medical field right now and he wants students to be aware of the service and get care from their own doctor or a way to access the services if their doctor does not provide them.

Those who do not have insurance can get coverage through the NY State of Health marketplace (nystateofhealth.ny.gov).

Excellus also has licensed agents to help find a medical plan. They may be reached at 1-888-370-7098. Enrollment appointments may also be made by calling 1-800-234-4781 to learn about available plans and options.