Dorm Room First Aid: Packing For Your Health

Dorm Room First AidWe know there are very few things more overwhelming than packing up your whole life to move into a really tiny college dorm or apartment. What do you bring with you? What sounds like a great idea to pack now, but will just end up unused and taking up precious space? How many forgotten items will your parents be willing to ship before you go home for Thanksgiving?

Today, we’re going to make this process easier by compiling the following list of important medical items so you can spend less time inside your school’s health center and more time experiencing all that college has to offer. Because – let’s face it – some sort of illness, scrape, or injury is inevitable, and it’s better to be prepared than to be scrambling to find a pharmacy store when your final paper is due in 45 minutes.

First aid essentials

First and foremost, we recommend that you invest in a good first aid kit for your room so you can handle those inevitable minor medical mishaps or illnesses. Make sure it has the essentials, including:

  • Digital oral thermometer: We can’t overemphasize how awesome it is to know for certain if “feeling kinda hot” actually represents a 100.4° fever before you make your way to the health center. Knowledge is power.
  • Band-aids
  • Antibiotic ointment (like bacitracin or triple antibiotic (Neomycin/polymyxin B/bacitracin): After you wash a cut or scrape with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointments before putting a
  • Band-aid on to help reduce the risk of infection.
  • Non-stick gauze: You can use this to cover larger wounds that Band-aids just can’t cover.
  • Medical adhesive tape: To keep the gauze in place when covering larger scrapes.
  • Elastic (“ace”) bandage: This is most helpful for wrapping a sprained or strained muscle or joint to provide comfort and compression.
  • Hot/cold packs: Cold packs are great for bruises, sprains, and bee stings; hot packs can be helpful to warm up tight muscles or to help relieve the discomfort of menstrual cramps.
  • Tweezers: Remove splinters with ease!
  • Scissors: Cut rolled bandages with ease!
  • Nail clippers: Prevent ingrown toenails (and athlete’s foot by not borrowing your roommates clippers)!
  • Alcohol or hydrogen peroxide: Use this to clean the tweezers, thermometer, or nail clippers before putting them back in the kit.
  • An index card with a list of important phone numbers, including:
    • Poison Control
    • University health service
    • University police
    • Your own emergency contact information
      … and, while you’re at it, put those numbers in your cell phone as well!

While you can’t prepare for every scenario, it can be helpful to have a few key medications on hand. Remember that people can have allergies to any type of medication, which is important to keep in mind before sharing meds with roommates or dormmates. That being said, consider having these over-the-counter medications on hand:

  • Pain reliever of your choice: acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
    Pro tips:
    Ibuprofen can be better for injuries that involve swelling.Avoid alcohol when taking pain medications! Mixing alcohol with any over the counter pain relievers can increase the risk of severe liver damage.If you’re taking pain medication frequently over more than a day or two, you should probably be evaluated by a healthcare provider.
  • Oral antihistamine or hydrocortisone cream: Oral antihistamines can be great for allergies; hydrocortisone cream can help itching from rashes or insect bites.
    Pro tip: Antihistamines can make you sleepy, so best not to try them for the first time before your chem final… or a first date.
  • Antacids (Maalox, Mylanta, Tums): Good first line medications for heartburn.
  • Cough drops or throat lozenges: For when that nasty cold inevitably hits you and your roommate.
  • Nasal saline rinse kit: This can be especially helpful if you have a history of allergies or sinus infections, but is a good tool for anyone dealing with congestion (see reference to that nasty cold above!).

Other key tools for your health

  • A water bottle: Stay hydrated! Everyone (hopefully!) thinks of drinking water when it’s hot, but drinking lots of water is good for all sorts of things. In combination with a diet with a good amount of fiber (best found in fruits, veggies, and multigrain breads/pastas), consistent water intake can also help prevent constipation. (And while people don’t talk about this, a lot of college students deal with this issue… Trust us.)
  • Your own list of your medication and allergies: Keep a written copy in your first aid kit and a list on your phone, if you have one.
    Pro tip: You should know why you take each of those medications. Now is the best time to take ownership of your health! (Learn more about transitioning to managing your health as an adult in our three-part blog post: here, here, and here!)
  • Copies of your prescriptions as well as plans for how to refill them.
    Pro tip: Many national pharmacy chains will transfer prescriptions to other locations if you make the request.
  • If you have life-threatening allergies to food or medicines or other significant medical issues, consider a medical alert bracelet or necklace as a way of communicating your health history if you’re not able to.
  • Your updated vaccination list
    Pro tips: While you’re at it, make sure that your immunizations are up to date! Take a picture to have this available on your phone, if you have one.
  • Your health and dental insurance information (with copies of your insurance cards)
    Pro tip: Take a picture to have this available on your phone, if you have one (do we sound like a broken record yet?).
  • Condoms: Safety first! Having condoms on hands can help prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections if you or a friend decides to be sexually active.

Voila! Your first aid packing is complete! You’ve taken some important steps toward making sure that you’re prepared to manage your health as a college student.

Now you just have to pack… everything else. Good luck!