This post: Your College Student’s First-Aid Kit: Everything They’ll Need
Co-Written by: Marybeth Bock and Nancy Reynolds
It’s that exciting time of year when parents of soon-to-be college students are helping their kids gather and purchase everything they need for their big move to campus.
And, nearly every college-bound kid is busy diving into social media sifting through posts of amazing dorm rooms with matching bedding and decorative pillows, twinkle lights and plants, and creative organization hacks to make their home away from home comfortable and cozy. (Except for guys who are busy planning which flag they’ll hang on their wall.)
While all that planning and buying is definitely exciting and fun, it’s important to remember that your child’s health should also be at the forefront of your planning.
After all, as a parent, there’s nothing worse than that helpless feeling of having a sick child who’s two, three or more hours away from home and your tender care. And, let’s face it, dorms and college campuses are a massive breeding ground for germs. When one gets sick, they ALL seem to get sick.
Give yourself the peace of mind you need by sending your child off to college well-prepared. Here’s the best list of must-have medical and first-aid supplies you’ll want to pack in your college student’s first-aid kit.
Your College Student’s First-Aid Kit: Everything They’ll Need
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If your student has a current prescription for medication, be sure they complete a change of address well in advance for any meds that usually get mailed to them, or that they know the location of the nearest pharmacy to campus so they can pick up prescription refills.
It’s also important to talk with them about having a safe place to store their prescription medications while at college, since certain medicines can be tempting for others to take. Investing in a small portable safe is an inexpensive way to keep meds (as well as important documents like passports) secure when living in a dorm or college apartment.
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications
Even if your child is relatively healthy, it’s important to have these over-the-counter medicines on hand in the event they get a cold, get an insect bite or end up with the flu or a nasty cold. Our list might be long, but it’s far better to be safe than sorry. (If your student doesn’t catch a cold during their first few weeks at college, consider it a minor miracle!)
- Acetaminophen (like Tylenol) to ease pain and reduce a fever
- Ibuprophen (like Motrin) to ease pain, reduce fever and reduce inflammation
- Cold/Flu Medicine (like Nyquil, Sudafed or Mucinex) to treat runny nose, sneezing, congestion
- Sore Throat/Cough Syrup (like Robitussin or Delsym 12-Hour Relief)
- Cough Drops
- Pain Relief/Cleansing Spray (like Bactine) to kill germs in minor cuts, scrapes, infections
- Antibiotic Cream or Ointment (like Neosporin or Polysporin) to help prevent infection in minor cuts, scrapes and burns
- Hydrogen Peroxide for disinfecting cuts and wounds
- Hydrocortisone Cream to treat insect bites, poison ivy/oak, rash and itching
- Upset Stomach, Anti-Nausea and Vomiting Medicine (like Pepto-Bismol or Emetrol)
- Anti-Diarrhea Medicine (like Imodium)
- Antacid (like Tums or Rolaids) to neutralize acid in the stomach and relieve indigestion and heartburn
- Allergy Decongestant (like Zyrtec, Allegra or Claritin) for relief of nasal and sinus congestion
- Saline Nasal Spray
- Eye Drops/Allergy Eye Drops (like Visine) for relief of irritation from sun, wind, allergies and other environmental factors
- Motion Sickness Medicine (like Dramamine)
- Natural Sleep Aid/Melatonin (for students who choose to take them)
- Sunscreen & Aloe Vera Gel
- Bug Repellant
Basic First-Aid Supplies
- Band-Aids in Various Sizes
- Gauze Bandages
- Rolled Gauze with Tape
- Cotton Balls and Q-Tips
- Antiseptic Wipes
- Thermometer (Digital thermometers are great)
- Instant Ice Packs
- Curved Medical Scissors
- Pill Cutter
- Midol or Pamprin for cramps and menstrual discomfort
- Menstrual Pain Relief Heat Wraps (like Thermacare) for extreme cramps and period pain
- Heating Pad for cramps and back pain
- Urinary Tract Infection Medicine (like AZO or Uristat) to temporarily relieve burning, pain, and frequency until they see a doctor
- Birth Control (Even if your daughter isn’t currently sexually active, it’s an important conversation to have with her before she leaves for college. The average girl loses her virginity at 17 years of age, although it’s important to keep in mind that not all teenagers are having sex. One study found upwards of 40% of college students are virgins.)
- Anti-Fungal Cream to treat athlete’s foot and jock itch
- Condoms (Again, even if your son isn’t currently sexually active, it’s an important conversation to have with him before he leaves for college. The average boy loses his virginity at 17 years of age, so there’s a chance he’ll choose to have sex in college. Keep in mind: Not all teenagers are having sex. One study found that 40% of college students are virgins.
If your child is planning on playing a collegiate sport, it’s important they clear all medications and/or supplements with their coach/trainers. The NCAA is very strict and they have certain substances that are banned.
While we may not like it, Covid-19 variants won’t be going away any time soon and there’s a chance your child can be reinfected even if they are vaccinated, so be sure to send your student off with these items as well:
- Surgical Grade Face Masks
- Hand Sanitizer
- Pulse Oximeter (inexpensive ones can be found on Amazon)
- Home Testing Kids (Every home in the U.S. is currently eligible to order a third round of free at-home tests at https://www.covid.gov/tests)
Additional Helpful Items to Have on Hand
- Nail Clippers
- Nail File
- Acne Wash
- Gentle Skin Care Cleanser
- Zit Topical Treatment
- Moisturizing Lotion
- Lip Balm/Chapstick
- Eye Glass Repair Kid
- Multivitamins/Supplements (for students who choose to take them)
More Tips to Keep Your Student Healthy and Safe in College
1. Know Where the Student Health Center is Located
Make sure your child accesses the college’s website to familiarize themselves with where the student health center is, the hours of operation and have them add the health center’s contact information in their phone so they’re prepared in advance to make an appointment or if they need medical advice.
Also, make sure they’re aware of all the assistance programs offered for students’ physical and mental health needs.
2. Bring Copy of Health Insurance Card
Your child should make sure they have a photo of both sides of any medical/dental/pharmacy insurance cards on their phone as well. (They can keep it in their wallet as well in the event their phone dies.)
3. Bring Copy of Immunization / Covid-19 Vaccinations
Although the school will have a copy of this on file, it helps if your child keeps a copy in their dorm room or takes a picture of it with their phone just in case they need to refer to it.
4. Become Familiar with Campus Safety Offerings
Encourage your child to check out the campus safety offerings like buses and vans that provide safe rides around campus, and safety escorts that will walk a student home if they are alone at night. Most campuses also have emergency call boxes in strategic places throughout campus so if a student feels threatened, they can press the button and emergency personnel will arrive within minutes. Personal safety devices like a Birdie Alarm are another inexpensive (yet effective) way to help keep your student safe on campus.
It’s always best to be prepared for the worst when you’re packing your college student’s first aid kit, but remember, the vast majority of college students make it through their first year just fine with the skills and common sense their parents have helped instill in them over the years.
Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.