Top 6 Non-Medication Items in a College First Aid Kit

A College First Aid kit is my favorite personalized gift for graduating high school seniors, and a MUST for every young person heading off to college. As an urgent care physician seeing students at the University of Texas, I have significant insight as to how teens handle their first illness away from home. As you start your child’s first aid kit, here are SIX NON-MEDICINE items I suggest:

  1. THERMOMETER- Preferably two inexpensive digital thermometers (because I’ve found their shelf-life is often less than a school year.)
    • Knowing whether or not you have a true FEVER (temperature >100.4*) is a very helpful piece of information, especially when you are calling in to a nurse hotline.
      Allergies frequently cause a mildly elevated temperature (99*)
    • Viral infections often will cause a SUBnormal temperature of around 98* (especially after the first day), even though you feel “feverish” or chilled.
  2. ALCOHOL WIPES- purchase a small box of individually packaged wipes (~$1). Remind your student that they should USE these wipes on the thermometer BEFORE & AFTER checking temps.
  3. BANDAIDS- do NOT go cheap here, splurge for the $4 box that includes flexible fabric finger tip and knuckle strips, because these actually stay on effectively. If your student is studying architecture, buy several boxes (seriously!) They work with exacto knives- enough said. A box of “blister” bandaids is nice for students headed to large campuses- their FitBit step count is about to skyrocket.
  4. COMPRESSION (“ACE”) WRAP- I prefer the 3″ size. Remind your student of the RICE pneumonic: Rest * Ice* Compression * Elevation for injured extremities. Add in a ziplock bag for a DIY cold pack for bonus points.
  5. BULB SYRINGE- If your child is an ear-wax-builder-upper, encourage them to use this tool to periodically flush out their ears (INSTEAD of Q-tips, which typically pack in the wax further).
  6. PAPERWORK- stick in an extra copy of your family’s health insurance card, along with a medication list (if your child takes prescriptions regularly, prescription or not). Write the date of most recent TETANUS shot on the med list. Yes, you fill these things out on line for the school, but your student may end up at an outside urgent care clinic at night or on a weekend, and it’s wonderful to have these physically on hand (or at least on their smart phone as a picture.)

BOTTOM LINE: A college student’s first aid kit should start with a thermometer, alcohol wipes, “good” bandaids, an ACE wrap, bulb syringe & copy of your family health insurance card.

PS. Virtually every university now has a 24 advice line staffed by an actual, live human being- be sure your college student has that number programmed in to their smart phone!

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