Back-to-School Health Dos and Don’ts
By Emily Duhovny, 18, Staff Writer
Originally Published: September 20, 2007
Revised: September 5, 2012
The summer after my sophomore year in high school, I went to live for six weeks on a college campus as part of a social action program. This small taste of college life was incredible, but I will never forget the very first morning I spent there.
One moment I was soundly sleeping under my covers and the next thing I knew someone was shaking me and telling me to wake up. I slowly opened my eyes and saw my program advisor by my bed. She looked at me and whispered, “You need to get a vaccination. The doctor is waiting for you downstairs.”
Being the scaredy-cat that I am, I freaked out. After some crying and questioning, I discovered that my parents had forgotten to take me to get one of the required vaccines.
I eventually got the vaccine, had an amazing summer and lived happily ever after. I learned a valuable lesson though: When you go away to college or even just start a new year of high school, you need to make sure that everything concerning your health is up to date! Below are some back-to-school dos and don’ts.
After some crying and questioning, I discovered that my parents had forgotten to take me to get one of the required vaccines.
See your doctor. Your doctor may be a family doctor, a pediatrician, a doctor at a clinic or a gynecologist (a medical doctor specializing in women’s reproductive health care). Girls, it’s recommended that you schedule a first visit to the gynecologist between the ages of 13 and 15. If you are not having oral, anal or vaginal sex, you won’t need a pelvic exam until you’re 21. This is a medical examination of a female’s internal reproductive organs (ovaries, uterus and cervix) and external genitals (inner and outer labia and vaginal area). You will need a pelvic exam if it’s been three years since you’ve started having oral, anal or vaginal sex or if there is a medical issue that requires the doctor to do an internal exam.
If you’re a guy, your regular doctor can conduct a testicular exam. If you’re sexually active, this is a great time to ask questions about using condoms, getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and birth control.
Be honest with your doctor. If you’re having testing done that you don’t want anyone to know about, speak to your doctor to make sure test results won’t be shared with anyone. Find out if your visit will be charged to your parents’ insurance. If this is the case, then you need to talk to your doctor and find out what information can be seen on your parents’ bill. Also, if you’re using your parents’ insurance and you’re under 18, your parents, in most cases, have the right to access your medical records.
Get ALL your required vaccinations. If you are a girl, consider getting Gardasil because it protects against four types of human papillomavirus (HPV), the sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer.
Make sure you have prescriptions for medication you take on a regular basis for diabetes, asthma or another chronic condition.
Get a dental exam and cleaning.
Get an eye exam.
Have your hearing tested.
Forget to tell the school nurse or doctor of any new medication you are on.
Delay a doctor visit!
Forget that there are free clinics out there. If you go to a Title X clinic, your appointment will be kept completely confidential. This means a doctor or other health care provider can’t discuss their conversations with you, your physical examination, medical history or test results with other people, even your parents, regardless of your age. (To find a Title X clinic near you, click here or call 1-800-230-PLAN (7526) for the nearest Planned Parenthood Health Center.)
Be afraid to ask questions! It’s your body, so you might be the only one who knows if something is wrong or you might just have a good question that needs an answer. If there’s something you need to know, then speak up and ask about it!
Photo courtesy of Teen Clinic
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