When I was a senior at boarding school, I got a sore throat. I didn’t think much of it, and went about living a terribly unhealthy lifestyle: eating Honey Nut Cheerios and soft serve ice cream for dinner, staying up till 2AM with class at 8AM the next morning, smoking cigarettes even despite being under the weather, not washing my hands. Shockingly, I went downhill, and this time it was severe. My throat swole up to the point that swallowing was extremely painful and I couldn’t even drink water. I went to the health center and they dosed me up on codeine… for three days. I woke only to take in liquids and take more codeine. It was essentially an induced coma. As it turns out, I had mono, or Ebstein-Barr. I missed a full two weeks. of classes. While the teachers were accommodating, my grades never really recovered and it notably impacted my ultimate college choices. While I have no one but myself to blame, I can’t help but believe that more persistent education surrounding health and wellness would have helped a muchacho with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex. Let’s take a closer look at illness and its challenges for teenagers in the hope of preventing the same time of tragedy.
There are various types of illnesses that can keep teenagers out of school, ranging from minor illnesses like colds, flu, and stomach bugs to more serious conditions such as chronic illnesses like diabetes, asthma, and epilepsy. Mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and eating disorders can also affect a teenager’s ability to attend school regularly. Infectious diseases such as COVID-19 can also impact a teenager’s attendance. Additionally, some teenagers may experience migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, or autoimmune diseases that can make it difficult for them to keep up with their studies and attend school consistently. It is important for families to work with healthcare providers to manage these illnesses and find ways to minimize their impact on school attendance and academic performance.
Illness can be defined as a physical, mental, or emotional condition that interferes with a person’s normal functioning. Illnesses can range from minor ailments like colds and headaches to serious and chronic conditions that require ongoing medical attention. Some illnesses are caused by infectious agents like bacteria, viruses, and parasites, while others may be triggered by genetic or environmental factors. Illnesses can affect various aspects of a person’s life, including their ability to attend school, engage in social activities, and maintain their physical and mental health. It is important for teenagers to understand the nature and impact of illness, so they can take steps to manage their health and seek appropriate care when needed.
Concussions are also a common malady that cause students to miss copious time from school, especially those who play sports. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that results from a blow to the head or body that causes the brain to move back and forth rapidly. Symptoms of a concussion can include headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, confusion, and sensitivity to light and noise. In some cases, a concussion can result in loss of consciousness. Due to the potential risks associated with concussions, many schools have strict policies regarding students returning to school after a concussion. Teenagers who have sustained a concussion may need to stay home from school for a period of time to allow their brains to heal. It is important for students to follow the advice of their healthcare providers and take the necessary time to recover fully before returning to school or participating in physical activities.
1. Lifestyle Choices
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial for teenagers to avoid illnesses and to promote overall wellbeing. Self-care habits like getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in regular exercise can help boost the immune system and reduce the risk of developing illnesses. Adequate sleep is critical for proper brain function, emotional wellbeing, and physical health. Eating a balanced diet that is rich in nutrients can provide the body with the fuel it needs to function optimally. Engaging in regular physical activity can help strengthen the body and reduce the risk of developing chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, practicing stress-management techniques like mindfulness, yoga, and meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety, which can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of illness. By adopting healthy lifestyle habits and engaging in self-care practices, teenagers can take proactive steps to promote their health and avoid illnesses.
If a student is diagnosed with a serious illness, accepting that diagnosis is an important step in managing teenage health and wellbeing. When a teenager is diagnosed with an illness, it can be a challenging and emotional experience, and it may take time to come to terms with the diagnosis. However, accepting the diagnosis is essential for developing a plan to manage the illness and prevent further complications. Denial or avoidance of the diagnosis can lead to a delay in treatment and can negatively impact one’s physical, mental, and emotional health. It is important for teenagers to work with their healthcare providers to develop a plan for managing their illness and to seek support from family, friends, and mental health professionals. By accepting the diagnosis and taking proactive steps to manage their health, teenagers can minimize the impact of the illness on their lives and promote their overall wellbeing.
3. Managing Symtoms
Managing the symptoms of a disease can be a challenge, but there are some home treatment strategies that can help. Depending on the nature of the disease, there are a range of approaches that may be effective. For example, for illnesses such as colds and flu, over-the-counter medications like pain relievers and decongestants may be helpful in managing symptoms such as fever, headache, and congestion. Other home treatment strategies that may be effective include drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, getting enough rest, and using a humidifier to ease breathing. For chronic illnesses like asthma or diabetes, it is important for teenagers to follow their healthcare provider’s recommendations for managing symptoms, which may include taking medications, monitoring blood sugar levels, and avoiding triggers that can exacerbate symptoms. While difficult, teenagers should try to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that is tailored to their individual needs.
4. Missed School Work and Class Time
Managing schoolwork and attending classes can be challenging for teenage students who are dealing with an illness. However, there are steps that can be taken to help manage these challenges. First, it is important for students to communicate with their teachers and school administrators about their illness and any accommodations they may need. This may include things like extra time to complete assignments or missed work, opportunities to make up missed classes or exams, or modifications to classroom seating or lighting. Additionally, technology can be a valuable tool for students who need to stay connected with their classes and schoolwork while away from school. Many schools now offer online resources like virtual classrooms or recorded lectures that can be accessed from home. By taking these steps, teenage students can manage their illness while continuing to make progress in their education.
5. Maintaining Peer Relationships While Ill
Maintaining peer relationships is an important part of the teenage experience, but it can be challenging for students who are dealing with an illness. However, it is important for students to continue to nurture their relationships with friends and peers as much as possible. This can be achieved through various means such as texting, calling, video chatting, or social media. Friends and peers can provide emotional support, which is critical for maintaining positive mental health. Teenagers with illness may also benefit from support groups, which provide a safe space for individuals to share experiences and offer support to one another. Some support groups are online, which may be more accessible for students who are unable to attend in-person meetings due to their health condition. It is important for students with illness to prioritize their health, but that does not mean they have to give up on maintaining important social connections. By staying connected with friends and peers, students can continue to feel a sense of belonging and maintain a positive outlook on life.
6. Managing Treatment and Medication
Managing treatment and medication is an important aspect of maintaining one’s health when dealing with an illness, especially for teenagers. It is important for teenagers to work closely with their healthcare providers to develop a comprehensive treatment plan, which may include medications, lifestyle modifications, and other interventions as needed. It is important for teenagers to take their medications as prescribed and to follow any other instructions provided by their healthcare provider, such as monitoring their symptoms or avoiding certain activities. To stay on top of their medication regimen, teenagers can use tools like pill reminders or medication calendars to help them stay organized and on schedule. It is also important for teenagers to communicate with their healthcare provider about any concerns they have about their treatment or medication, including any side effects they may experience. By working closely with their healthcare provider and staying on top of their treatment and medication, teenagers can manage their illness and promote their overall health and wellbeing.
7. Maintaining Athletic Responsibilities
Maintaining athletic responsibilities while dealing with an illness can be challenging for teenage students, but it is important to prioritize one’s health and allow for adequate time for rest and recovery. In many cases, students may need to take a break from athletic activities while they focus on their health. However, in some cases, healthcare providers may give permission to engage in light exercise or activities that are less physically demanding. It is important for students to communicate with their coaches and athletic trainers about their illness and any modifications that may be necessary to their training or athletic responsibilities. This may include modified practice schedules, reduced intensity or duration of workouts, or modifications to athletic gear or equipment. Students should also be sure to get adequate rest, stay hydrated, and eat a healthy diet to promote healing and recovery. By taking these steps, teenage students can prioritize their health while continuing to participate in their athletic activities when it is safe to do so.
While illness can certainly cause catastrophic issues for students when they come up, knowing the best ways to support these students can be extremely helpful to parents. Planning ahead is wise, particularly if there are other kids, employments and time sucks that will intervene in making these decisions and putting these protocols into place. Often the best time to think about these matters is ironically the summer, when illness is scarce, for this very reason. Best of luck to all parents out there, it’s been rough sledding lately, but know that you are not alone in the ever-increasing battle with illness of all sorts. If you do need support, please let us know at Alliance right away, and we can assist with coaching families through these circumstances.