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posted: 8/6/2012 6:00 AM

Healthy dose of advice for college freshmen

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By Brian Singer

Getting a teen ready to send off to college for the first time?

In addition to the long lists of things to take care of -- from outfitting a dorm room to what clothes to pack -- parents should add getting a student prepared health-wise.

Taking a teen for a medical checkup before school is crucial, said Yolanda Reid-Chassiakos, director of the Klotz Student Health Center at the California State University in Northridge, Calif.

"A teen physical not only gives students a clean bill of health, but provides an opportunity for teens to learn about ways to stay healthy in college," Reid-Chassiakos said.

Many schools in Illinois require an MMR shot (measles, mumps and rubella) and another shot for tetanus.

Dr. Robert Palinkas, director of the McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, advocates other immunizations to prevent serious ailments.

"Shots for HPV and meningitis are recommended for college students by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)," Palinkas says.

"The meningitis vaccine helps prevents the disease with those living in a resident hall setting and (where) people are in constant close contact," Palinkas said. "The HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer and genital warts."

For a more extensive list of recommended vaccinations, parents can visit

As far as what to keep on hand in a dorm room or apartment, medical experts recommend packing a simple first aid kit and supplies for minor injuries or problems.

"Adhesive bandages, scissors, adhesive cloth tape, antiseptic wipes, ice pack, rubber gloves, roller bandages, gauze, tweezers and a thermometer are good to have aboard," Reid-Chassiakos said. "Additionally, I recommend alcohol-based hand cleaners, over-the-counter Tylenol or Advil, and sunscreen."

Part of college life for students is often a lot of stress and a lot less sleep, which can make them susceptible to illness and infections.

"There's always going to be some stress -- academics, relationships, financial," Palinkas warns. "Having stress management is important to doing well."

The CDC recommends finding support from friends, counselors or religious leaders, which can help reduce stress, as well as eating a healthy well-balanced diet and exercising regularly. Additional tips from the CDC can be found at

"College is a time of exposure to other people. The biggest to prepare for are common colds and other upper respiratory infections," Palinkas said.

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