“I’m not mad at you guys, I’m just going into quarantine.” I joked with my roommates, but I felt genuinely concerned for the overall health of our apartment after discovering how swollen and disgusting my tonsils looked.
After sealing myself into my room, I did what I thought was the best option, and no, the health center wasn’t my first instinct. I snapchatted my mother a zoomed in to an overexposed photo of my throat. Her 10-second examination (capturing a screenshot remained beyond her skill set) led to a diagnosis of strep, and she ordered me to go to the health center ASAP.
For students new to college and life on their own, illness is a whole new experience. Suddenly you manage your appointments and medications on top of classes, and that gets overwhelming. Trekking to the dining hall in your pajama shirt and greasy slicked-back hair will seem acceptable in sick mode. You can cringe about the horrified looks on the kitchen staff’s faces on your return journey.
So maybe your parents aren’t your best friends on snapchat. Though I recommend it, give them a call and ask for advice. They have your insurance information and can point you in the direction of possible remedies. Knowing the difference between a viral or bacterial infection is expertise gained after you reach a certain age. At 19, I hadn’t memorized that information, but as usual my mom knew the answer.
Let’s be honest, sometimes you need medical attention for something you don’t want your parents to know about—sprained ankle after a night out? No worries, your parents can’t access your medical records. Go take care of yourself without fear of repercussions back home. After that, schedule an appointment with your university’s health center. In my experience, a visit there is cheaper than a normal doctor visit or a walk-in emergency clinic and way easier. Use the files of information that the school holds to your advantage. Put your time and effort towards getting better and not filling out dozens of medical forms on your last tetanus shot.
Thanks to my mom’s insistence, I headed over to the health center. Unfortunately I lived a ways off campus and sat on a 20-minute bus ride to get there. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if my neck wasn’t locked into place or if I didn’t have a bad habit of passing out from time to time. But that bus ride, clinging to the loop of rope as the B-Town Transit driver curbed the bus over every corner we turned on, I felt clammy and tried to focus on not collapsing onto the professor reading his Herald-Times next to me.
After one incredibly unpleasant bus ride, I waited for my appointment in a worn-down green armchair at the health center. A fleet of nurses stands prepared to check students in, measuring your blood pressure and distributing the ever-important face masks. Lucky for me, a long line of students waited to see the doctor before me, so I sat with my scratchy throat for a bit.
Finally my name was called, mispronounced as usual. This time the nurse went with her best attempt at a French accent pronouncing my name so it could rhyme with Lumière from Beauty and the Beast. A nurse ushered me into an office and the door shut behind me.
A delicately built man with snow-white hair and a matching mustache waited for me behind his desk. I scanned the office as he asked me questions about my medical history. I focused on a framed picture on his desk of what looked like a family vacation in Hawaii, complete with three sunburned kids and a plastic lei around each neck.
When it came time for him to check my throat, he confirmed my mother’s diagnosis. “This is by far the worst throat I have seen in my time here at IU.”
He then processed a throat culture and prescribed a cocktail of antibiotics explaining that in the time I wasted hoping it would go away on its own, the strep developed into scarlet fever. Leaving with a crisp doctor’s note for class, I caught the next bus home.
You’ll definitely need antibiotics and doctor visits to maintain your health, but don’t underestimate the power of home remedies. Sometimes in college you need to take care of yourself, and you can shake off less serious colds with only soup, sleep and water. Meanwhile, quarantine yourself in your bed—your roommates will thank you. And of course, don’t forget to email your professors. Consider my experience your reassurance that professors will consider scarlet fever a valid excuse for absences.