Sick at School? How To Be Your Own Caregiver

When I was little, getting sick enough to stay home from school was like a mini-vacation. My mom would wait on me hand and foot as I lounged on the couch watching television, sleeping as much (or as little) as I wanted and reveling in the joy of not having to attend school.

When I got to college, the “vacation” was not as grand as it once was. In my first year, I managed to succumb to a double ear infection (I even walked out of a midterm exam because of the pain) and came down with a case of shingles, landing me in the ER late one night. While I managed to escape the particularly nasty viruses that tend to spread around freshmen dormitories, I quickly realized that sick days were no longer as  “fun” as they used to be.

Suddenly, there were responsibilities…and a lot of them. I needed to make an appointment at the health center (heck, I needed to know where the health center was), call the Emergency Dean to get a note for the classes I had missed (and the test I had walked out of), and needed to go to a pharmacy for medication. My mom was no longer able to take care of me, and the never-ending pile of work was mounting higher and higher with each class I missed.

However miserable I was, getting sick at college taught me many valuable lessons, and I came out more independent as a result of dealing with these illnesses. Since I had taken many precautions before I got sick, my situations were not as bad as they could have been.

  • In my first week at school, I made sure that I knew where the health center was (and the quickest way to get there).
  • I became familiar with the health center’s website, and knew the name of the local hospital. I programmed the non-emergency phone number into my phone upon arriving on campus.
  • And, while many prefer to “wait it out” (which is sometimes the best solution for a stomach virus or a common cold), I went to see a doctor immediately, at the first sense of something gone wrong. As a result, my ear infections healed quickly and I reduced the severity of my shingles episode drastically.

After receiving my diagnoses, I went online to do some research. For ear infections, there wasn’t much else I could do besides take the prescribed medication. However, when it came to the shingles, there was a lot to learn and many “at-home treatments” that I could do myself, sans Mama.

I also made sure to e-mail my professors and teaching assistants immediately, explaining my illness, how long I would be missing class and asking how they would like me make up coursework. It also helped that I came to campus prepared with various over-the-counter medications to deal with pain (i.e. Ibuprofen, aspirin), a thermometer, an ice pack, and a first aid kit.

Being sick can be one of the most lonely and overwhelming parts of college. Suddenly, you’re thrown into an unfamiliar environment with full responsibility for your well-being.

Being prepared to deal with an illness and taking the necessary precautions once you arrive on campus can help to make the process a little bit easier (maybe not quite up to vacation status, but just bearable enough).

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Emma Weissmann

Emma Weissmann

Emma Weissmann is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a degree in News-Editorial Journalism with an interdisciplinary minor in Leadership Studies. Emma enjoys traveling, trying new foods, and snuggling up on the couch with her cat, “Louie.” She also spends her time volunteering and hanging out with family and friends.
Emma Weissmann

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