Every year, high school students across the country get their diplomas, finalize their post-graduate plans and say goodbye to their childhood home. This can be an exhilarating time for young adults as they look ahead to the future and the world of possibilities that await. In the whirlwind that follows high school graduation – parties, summer jobs, internships, vacations and moving prep – it can be easy to forget about key healthcare priorities that need to be addressed before fall semester begins.
Just like textbooks are critical to success in the classroom, vaccines are critical to student health. Particularly of the utmost importance are meningococcal vaccine(s), since most meningococcal outbreaks occur at colleges and universities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2019) recommends that teens 16 to 18 years old stay up-to-date with the following vaccinations:
- Influenza (yearly)
- Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis)
- HPV (human papillomavirus)
- Meningococcal (ACWY and B serogroups)
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis A
- MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
These vaccines serve as an incredibly vital first-line defense in the prevention of disease. Some colleges and universities require their student population to provide documentation proving vaccination, so be sure to check with your institution for their requirement(s).
Hygiene & Safe Sex Practices
In addition to vaccines, appropriate hand hygiene and safe sex practices can also prevent the spread of many communicable illnesses. Effective hand hygiene includes washing your hands or using hand sanitizer after using the restroom, prior to cooking or eating, or after contact with contagious bodily secretions (such as after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose).
Safe sex practices include discussion surrounding sexually transmitted infections (STIs), condom use and birth control options. Parents and/or healthcare practitioners should be prepared to have an open and honest conversation with students about these topics.
Mental Health & Substance Abuse
Two additional topics of equal importance to address are mental health and substance (alcohol and drug) abuse. In addition to experiencing the stress of becoming an increasingly independent adult, many students are also subject to grueling course loads and extracurricular activities. This stress can cause anxiety, depression and even lead to alcohol or drug abuse. When talking with your teens, it’s critical to reinforce the importance of self-care and foster the development of healthy coping mechanisms, including exercising regularly, employing effective communication, eating nutritiously and getting an adequate amount of sleep.
To recap, here’s a quick list of health topics to review with your teen and their healthcare provider regarding their well-being:
- Hand hygiene
- Safe sex practices
- Mental health (i.e. stress relief & coping mechanisms)
- Alcohol and drug abuse prevention
To learn more about staying up to date on recommended vaccinations, click here.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.