After endless exams, campus visits, and scholarship applications, you’ve finally picked a college and officially enrolled. While it’s tempting to think that the hardest part is over, for students with chronic conditions, managing an illness during college is perhaps the biggest challenge yet.
Get help (from the school). Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), every college in the United States is required to provide services for students with disabilities or chronic conditions. Before classes begin, schedule a visit with your school’s disability access center to see what accommodations they can make for you, such as transportation to and from classes or alternative meal plans.
Communicate. Disability counselors aren’t the only ones who can help you on campus. If you feel comfortable disclosing your condition to professors, give them a heads-up about your illness, so they can excuse any absences or late work in case of an emergency. Create an action plan with friends and family as well if you’re prone to sudden or severe flare-ups.
Watch what you drink. It's practically a rite of passage to party. But drinking more than three times a week or binge drinking, which is defined as having five or more drinks in a short amount of time can wreak havoc on your health. Excessive alcohol lowers your immunity and causes inflammation, which means that if you drink heavily, an illness flare-up could follow close behind. Protect your health by limiting your alcohol intake and finding other ways to be social with your classmates, such as joining a club.
Get plenty of sleep. Although you might be tempted to pull an all-night study session while you’re cramming for finals, science shows that a lack of sleep is linked to more frequent illnesses and even a higher risk of premature death. Restful sleep (and lots of it) protects immune-system function and prevents chronic illnesses from flaring. Make sure you’re getting between 8 and 10 hours of shut-eye per night, and don’t be ashamed to take naps during the day.
Learn to say no. One of the most important parts of managing a chronic illness is avoiding stress as much as possible. Although it might be tempting to join every on-campus group and throw yourself into academic life, chronic conditions are known to flare or worsen in times of stress. Limit your daily activities even ones you might enjoy to make sure you’re not overwhelming your mind or body.
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