The ULTIMATE College Student Health Handbook

I’m excited to announce that the 3rd edition of my passion project, The ULTIMATE College Student Health Handbook: Your Guide for Everything from Hangovers to Homesickness, is now available. If you’re new here, welcome! My name is Jill Grimes, MD, better known as “Dr. Jill” or “the College Doc”. I’m a board-certified family physician who enjoyed private practice for roughly 20 years, then switched my focus to teen and young adult health. I treated college students in an on-campus university urgent care setting for about 7 years, until the pandemic hit, and I pivoted to public health initiatives. As both a college doctor and a mom of college kids, I was uniquely positioned to realize what these young people know, what they do NOT know, and what they simply don’t KNOW that they don’t know (which can be extremely risky.)

This book originated as a few instructional note cards included in the college first aid kits that I made as high school graduation gifts, including tips for when to take Tylenol vs. Advil, what to do for food poisoning, and which creams to use for cuts or rashes. By the time our oldest daughter was in high school, the instructions had crept up to a 22-page laminated booklet, and I had so much more that I wanted to add! Today’s version includes not only the most common (or potentially dangerous) injuries, illnesses, and anxieties, but also straight talk about “all the things” like sex/STDs, drugs, drinking, piercing, inking (tattoos) and more. AND look in the Bonus Section for the DIY First Aid Kit shopping list and “cheat notes” of when to use what!

My style is the same in and out of the exam room- practical, conversational, evidence-based, served with humor (when appropriate) and without judgment (as much as humanly possible.) Certainly, there are risky substances or behaviors that I discourage, but teen and young adult brains are wired to push boundaries and try new things. Mistakes happen. Regrets are optional. Some outcomes are tough but transient, while others may be relatively minor but permanent (like getting a viral infection such as herpes simplex virus.) I’m here to teach and support, not to add another layer of pain or finger-pointing.

New this version, by popular demand, is “Know Before You Go”, which covers everything from insurance paperwork tips (like knowing your “guarantor” and their social security number) to how to make the most of your time with the doctor. Ever heard of “hand-on-the-doorknob” questions? This is when patients wait till the doctor is heading out the door before they ask their REAL question, which is often something embarrassing (is this rash an STD?) or difficult (I’m so anxious/depressed that I haven’t slept in a week.) Especially in a packed, time-pressured campus clinic, students need to be prepared to LEAD with their most pressing concern.

Also new: a topic on seizures (far more common than you think, especially in college kids!), major updates in the cannabis topic (including key info about edibles), and the potentially life-saving topic about fentanyl (including when and how to use naloxone/Narcan.) College drug dealers are not scary, shady characters. College dealers are fellow students- a roommate or classmate who offers an innocent-looking gummy bear or a “Xanax” to help you sleep. Students have told me that they “slipped” into selling weed or pills, simply to cover the expense of their own personal use. Frankly, these dealers are often blinded to the risks (of potential fentanyl, especially) exactly because they use from the same supply chain. Parents, please take a deep breath and know that not “EVERYONE” uses cannabis (or even alcohol!) According to the American College Health Association’s most recent study released April 8, 2024, 56% of students have NEVER used cannabis, 32% have used within the last 3 months, and roughly 21% have moderate-to-high risk use patterns. What I’ve observed is that cannabis use varies significantly by social/friend groups, with general usage patterns often consistent within each group. Either “everyone” uses, “no one” does, or some people use occasionally, but no one particularly feels pressured or cares about others’ choices. The take-home message here is for students to recognize in advance that the people they choose to spend the most time with are highly likely to influence their “partying” style and substance choices.

The ULTIMATE College Student Health Handbook is still chock-full of far less controversial, but equally important topics. The book is organized literally head-to-toe, so here is a sample: Concussions, Hangovers, Migraines, Insomnia, Test Anxiety, Zoom Fatigue, Pink Eye & Styes, Clogged Ears, Nose Bleeds, Cold Sores, Bad Breath, Strep Throat, Neck Pain, Heart Palpitations, Heart Burn, Coughs, Food Poisoning, Appendicitis, Public Potty Anxiety, UTIs, STIs, Ankle Sprains, Acne, Bites, Burns, & Rashes (phew!)

BOTTOM LINE: I wrote this book first for our kids and their friends, and now I’m honored to share it with you and your kids. I hope families can use the information in this book as conversation starters for tough topics, and as a handy reference for the inevitable bumps along the college journey. Cheers!

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