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Making the shift from high school to college is an exciting time. College brings a whole new world of experiences—new friends, a new learning environment, and freedom from your parents. Getting used to taking care of yourself and living away from your parents can be tough at first, even more so if you're a young adult with CF. However, there are many things you can do to help prepare for this change. Below are some helpful tips to ensure a healthy college transition.1

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What you can do before college1:

  • Put yourself in charge of your treatments, medications, refills, and nutrition. Take responsibility for your health
  • If you're going far from home or out of state, find clinics, CF care centers, and specialty doctors in the area in case emergency questions or situations come up once you're there
  • Ask your CF care team from home if they know any CF care centers they'd recommend near your college
  • Create a binder to take with you to college. Include copies of:
    • All your medications (doses and when you should take them)
    • Insurance contact information
    • Copies of health insurance cards
    • Names and contact information of CF and CF-related doctors
    • Refill schedule for all medications
    • Names, numbers, and websites for all current pharmacies and a local pharmacy in case you need a prescription right away
  • When making your class schedule, leave enough time for your treatments each day. A college student with CF should devote 1 or 2 extra class periods per day to treatments, cleaning equipment, exercise, etc
  • If possible, schedule classes around treatment times
  • Put together a "med cart" with drawers and trays for keeping medications, nebulizers, and the sterilization equipment
  • Make sure you can sterilize nebulizers and other items in your dorm
  • If you have a roommate, find out if you can set up a time to talk or meet in person before moving into the dorm together. Be upfront about CF with them and explain the treatments you do throughout the day
Before you get to college, look into registering with disability services. They can help with class scheduling, special requests for dorm rooms (such as having air conditioning or a private bathroom) and any other personal requests you may have. Disability services are there to help ensure you get what you need for a smooth transition into college life. In addition, by registering with disability services, they can notify your professors (with your permission) when you need time off for a hospital stay. They will work with you and your professors to help make sure you don't fall behind in your studies. Your CF care team can provide you with more information regarding how to register with disability services.

What you can do once you're there1:

  • Get a small refrigerator for medications that need to stay cold
  • Figure out the best way to meet your nutritional needs. Explore meal plan options, on- and off-campus restaurants, and grocery stores
  • Stock up on paper towels, hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, tissues, etc
  • Ask about housekeeping services and how often shared bathrooms are cleaned. In addition, request vacuums with HEPA filters if need be
  • Sign up at the campus recreation center to use the gym facilities or look into joining a recreation sports team
  • Meet with the director of the student health center to find a primary care doctor (one who knows about CF, if possible), and schedule a meeting
  • Meet the campus pharmacist. There may be times you need medicine right away and the campus pharmacy may be the quickest option
  • If you use a mail-order pharmacy, coordinate orders regarding the time of delivery and where medications are shipped, especially for chilled medications sent overnight
  • Be sure to get enough rest, sleep, and exercise. Your health is your top priority and taking good care of yourself will allow for the fun stuff
  • Stay away from smoky environments
  • Above all else, have fun, get involved, and make new friends. College is supposed to be the best 4 years of your life!

You'll go through many changes while in college, but one thing will always stay the same: sticking with your CF treatments and staying on top of taking your medications is still as important as ever. Keep in touch with your CF care team and reach out to them when you need to.

Source: Logistical information provided by Conor Reid, a college student and patient with cystic fibrosis.

Reference: 1. Cystic fibrosis in the classroom. Cystic Fibrosis Research, Inc website. http://www.cfri.org/pdf/cfintheclassroom.pdf. Accessed May 1, 2016.

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