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Managing the Stress of Chronic Disease at College

Checklist for Managing Your Condition continued...

5. Visit your college health center. Make an appointment at the beginning of the year to introduce yourself to the center and its staff. Familiarize them with your condition. Ask whether anyone on staff is specially trained to treat it. Give them a copy of your medical records so the doctor will know exactly how your chronic disease is being managed. Learn who to contact after-hours and the location of the nearest hospital in case you have an emergency.

6. Find support. Ask whether your college or town has a chapter of an organization focused on your condition -- such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation or the Epilepsy Foundation. Having access to a supportive group of people who understand what you're going through can be a big relief, especially when you're in a new place.

7. Stay healthy. Living in close quarters with people makes college a petri dish for infections. Before you go off to school, make sure you've gotten all the immunizations your school requires, plus the vaccinations your doctor recommends for your chronic disease. To avoid picking up a bug, don't share with your roommates too liberally. You can swap notes and clothes, but some things -- like your toothbrush, razors, eating utensils, and towels -- should be off-limits.

8. Don't change your treatment routine. Now is not the time to suddenly decide you're sick of your treatment and want to switch to another drug. Never make any changes to your medication without first talking to your doctor. Skipping medication can lead to serious complications, especially for conditions that are managed day-to-day, like diabetes.

9. Pace yourself. Following up an all-nighter with a full day of classes is tough enough if you're healthy. But it can be brutal on your body when you've also got a chronic disease. If you're sleep-deprived, you could do something dangerous, like forgetting to take your asthma medication or sucking down a sugary drink when you've got diabetes. If you have epilepsy, a lack of sleep might even trigger seizures.

Even if you're feeling great and ready to tackle a full schedule today, tomorrow you could have a relapse and feel awful. Don't try to do too much. In fact, take on less work than you think you can handle. Then you can gradually add classes or activities as you feel up to them.

College can be overwhelming, especially when it's compounded with the stress of a chronic disease. Take it easy on yourself. While you're juggling work and the demands of your condition, set aside some time for yourself. Relax by hanging out with friends, going to the gym, or just sitting in a quiet place and meditating.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on July 02, 2013

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