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Heading to college this fall? Dr. Grimes is with you every step of the way in her no-nonsense, on-point ULTIMATE COLLEGE STUDENT’S HEALTH HANDBOOK: From Homesickness to Hangovers, plus what to pack, how to stay fit, more

By Leslie Lindsay

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, THE ULTIMATE COLLEGE STUDENT HEALTH HANDBOOK: Your Guide to Everything from Homesickness to Hangover by Dr. Jill Grimes is a must-have for the college Freshman. 

Ultimate College Student Health Handbook front


Recognized by

CNN~Health Baylor College of Medicine~CBS ~AAFP~ Doctors Radio NYU ~Glamour~ Reach MD~ Fox News ~ Health 

College students facing their first illness, accident, or anxiety away from home often flip-flop between wanting to handle it themselves and wishing their parents could swoop in and fix everything. Advice from peers and “Dr. Google” can be questionable. THE ULTIMATE COLLEGE STUDENT HEALTH HANDBOOK: Everything from Homesickness to Hangovers by Jill Grimes, M.D., (Skyhorse, May 2020) provides accurate, trustworthy, evidence-based medical information (served with a dose of humor) to reduce anxiety and stress and help set appropriate expectations for more than 50 common issues.

What if you can’t sleep well (or can’t sleep at all) in your dorm-room? What if a pill “gets stuck” in your throat? What if your roommate falls asleep (or passes out) wearing contacts, and wakes up with one painfully stuck? Your friend’s terrible sore throat isn’t Strep or Mono? What else could it be? What if everyone from your group project thinks they’re coming down with the flu the day before your presentation?

Dr. Jill Grimes has the answer to these questions and many more. Her guidebook is designed to help you:

  • Decide if and when to seek medical help
  • Know what to expect when you get there
  • Plan for the worst-case scenario if you don’t seek help
  • Learn how you can prevent this in the future
  • Realize what you can do right now, before you see a doctor
  • Understand the diagnostic and treatment options

The topics of tattoos, smoking, vaping, pot, piercings, and prescription drugs will also be tackled throughout the pages of this handbook, ensuring you, your roommates and your friends have a healthy semester.

I love the ease and accessibility of this book, and the fact that Dr. Grimes’s daughter, Nicole illustrated it!Don’t you think this, along with a few gift cards to favorite college-town eateries, would make a fab high school graduation gift?

Please join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Dr. Jill Grimes to the author interview series: 

Leslie Lindsay:

This guide really couldn’t have come at a better time in our world as we face the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m sure that wasn’t exactly the inspiration. Can you tell us what initially inspired you to write The Ultimate College Student Handbook?

Jill Grimes, M.D.:

Around ten years ago, I started making personalized first aid kits as high school graduation gifts. Initially I included one index card with “cheat notes” about which medications to take when, but this expanded steadily as I tried to include answers to common texts that I received from these kids throughout the year. Before long, I was up to a twenty page booklet, and I realized I really needed to expand to an actual book. I’m continually delighted when parents tell me their now “grownup” kids are still asking for “first aid kit refills” even several years after their college graduation!

Leslie Lindsay:

I really love that. What a smart–and thoughtful–idea. What is the best advice that parents can give their child before going off to college for the first time?

Jill Grimes, M.D.:

College will likely be the best years of your life so far…BUT there will still be bad DAYS and even weeks thrown in the mix. Many students have such high expectations that when the first disappointments hit (especially not making the club/Greek org they wanted, their first bad grade, not liking their roommate) it feels twice as devastating. Also, at first, join everything! Don’t wait for the “perfect” group. This is your chance to explore everything from political to service to quirky art clubs, and a wonderful time to meet people with totally different backgrounds and perspectives. As you settle in, you will quickly figure out which ones you enjoy and which ones you should drop.

group of people sitting on stairs

Photo by Daniel Nieto on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

If a parent, well-meaning friend, neighbor, or relative wanted to pack a first-aid kit for a college student, what should they include?

Jill Grimes, M.D.:

Be sure you look for the bonus DIY first aid kit section in The Ultimate College Student Handbook for the full shopping list and instructions, but start with a mid-range priced oral digital thermometer (around $8-12), an ACE wrap, “good” bandaids for fingers/heels, Tylenol, Advil,  topical steroid cream (hydrocortisone), antibiotic cream/ointment (like Neosporin), a copy of your health insurance card and the date of your student’s last tetanus shot (plus ideally a copy of all their immunizations). [Tip: If you’re not the parent putting this together, you might have to ask for some of these details.]

Leslie Lindsay:

I know that when I went away to college there were a few items I simply hadn’t thought of and weren’t on any list I uncovered (at the time). For example: paint brushes (we could paint our dorm rooms school-approved colors, but that’s not exactly medically-related). What are five unexpected items that every college student should pack for college?

Jill Grimes, M.D.:

    1. Prescription glasses if you have them! (even though they only wear contacts, BRING THEM because with pink eye or any other eye problem, they will need their glasses and frequently students tell us it never crossed their mind to bring them to campus.)
    2. Heating pad- doubles as a heated blanket in cold climates, plus great for female menstrual cramps or back pain in anyone.
    3. Old fashioned reusable ice bag
    4. Small lock box for medications (especially if on ADD meds)
    5. Small tool kit (scissors, hammer, tape- invaluable on move in day!)
concentrated woman carrying stack of cardboard boxes for relocation

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

I remember being ill for the first time away from home. All I wanted was my own bed, a bowl of soup, and to not have roommate. Some of those things you just can’t get around. What would you say are some of the most common medical issues that college students have? Any advice on how to prevent these things?

Jill Grimes, M.D.:

Challenging to summarize- but here are a few highlights:

    1. Infections (Colds, flu, strep throat, mono, food poisoning, “stomach flu”,  STDs):
      1. Hand washing (full 20 seconds with soap! We can thank COVID that now everyone actually knows this!)
      2. Flu shot each year.
      3. Condoms/barriers every single time if sexually intimate in any fashion.
    2. Injuries (Sprains, fractures, concussions, lacerations and scrapes):
      1. Stop rushing! Bike accidents, trips, falls are all far more common when students push it till the last minute (too many snooze buttons) and race to class.
      2. Intoxication is the other common culprit- mostly alcohol and pot.

Pro tip: becoming a more “awake” intoxicated person (by adding caffeine or nicotine) does NOT improve your reflexes nor decrease your chance of injury. You’re still an intoxicated person with impaired reflexes and judgment.

medicine blister pack on red surface

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

“As a pediatrician and child health expert, parents look to me for trusted advice. I whole-heartedly recommend The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook, an accurate, practical guide that will help your kids deal with unexpected illnesses, injuries, and anxieties (and will give you answers for their late-night texts). Definitely my new go-to high school graduation gift!”

Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, bestselling author and parenting expert

Leslie Lindsay:

One of my best girlfriends went away to college and was terribly homesick. Not just missing home, but literally making herself ill with anxiety and missing the comforts of home. Any tips for getting over homesickness?

Jill Grimes, M.D.:

GET INVOLVED with “everything” that might interest you initially, and volunteer for leadership positions like on dorm councils or freshman rep spots in club executive boards. The more involved you are (and the less time you spend in your dorm room), the less homesick you will be. Also, limit your social media browsing, because FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is quicksand, and seeing all your old friends looking “insta-perfect”-ly happy on all their posts (the same as you do on yours, by the way!) makes you feel left out.

man in black jacket

Photo by ICSA on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Another friend of mine was determined *not* to gain the Freshman Fifteen. She exercised a lot (and well, that became another problem), but what exactly is the Freshman Fifteen and how does one avoid it? 

Jill Grimes, M.D.:

The “An Ounce of Prevention” topic goes into more detail, but briefly:

  1. Recognize the cause:
    1. College socializing initially revolves around high calorie, convenience/delivery foods like pizza and cookies
    2. Liquid calories are the biggest culprit- from Starbucks lattes or sodas to beer, margaritas and vodka shots.
    3. Activity level drops dramatically from high school for most students- especially dancers, traditional athletes (football, basketball, track) and marching band.
  2. Be proactive with prevention:
    1. Join intramural sports (great for socializing too!)
    2. “Count” liquid calories and balance with increased activity
    3. Have accountability- weigh or try on a pair of non-stretchy shorts or jeans every Sunday night
    4. Plan study breaks around walking with a friend (rather than playing games on your phone or grabbing a candy bar)
    5. Consider twice/month personal training sessions at your university gym (many offer great student pricing!)
content athletic female at reception desk in sports center

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Leslie Lindsay:

Here’s another story: my then-boyfriend became very preoccupied with homework, perfection; he struggled to settle on a major and insisted on writing only in pencil because, ‘things can change.’ He persevered and devolved. I took him to the student health center. We called his mother, who was a nurse. He got on medication. How can students take care of themselves mentally? Do you have any suggestions for managing stress?

Jill Grimes, M.D.:

Anxieties are super common- from fear of using public bathrooms (often leading to constipation and stomach pain) to text anxiety and/or fear of public speaking. Much to say, but again, a few highlights:

  1. Do NOT wait till you crash and burn to seek help!! This is true whether it means going to tutoring for a class you’re struggling with or to counseling to figure out strategies to help with public speaking or other fears. Trust me, professors know the most successful college students by their first names, because those are the kids that show up for tutorials.
  2. Insomnia may be the most common warning sign- go in and talk to your doctor if you cannot fall asleep or if you wake up early and can’t go back to sleep. It’s virtually impossible to deal with anxiety if you can’t get a decent night’s sleep.
  3. Daily aerobic exercise (30 minutes of anything that elevates your heartrate- walking, biking, elliptical, zumba, basketball…) is equivalent to a low dose of an antidepressant! So important to help relieve stress.
  4. Many students consciously or unconsciously try self-medicating with alcohol or pot…which makes things worse. Bottom line: although these substances are sedating in their immediate action, they actually exacerbate insomnia (cause poor quality, unrestful sleep) and often very significantly worsen anxiety.

Leslie Lindsay:

Dr. Grimes, thank you. This is so informative and helpful. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Jill Grimes, M.D.:

There are a few topics I included because students can’t be concerned about what they don’t know is a potentially serious issue- like when back pain and shortness of breath with no injury might be a partially collapsed lung, or chest pain in someone taking female hormones (like birth control) could be a potentially lethal blood clot in your lungs. Rest assured these events are far less common, but we never want to miss one.

Additionally, I really hope parents will take the time to read “Smoking, Vaping, and What You Might Not Know About Pot”[in the book] because trust me, things have changed in twenty or thirty years, and I’d like everyone to be on the same page. Ditto for the chapters on tattoos, piercings, STDs and sexual assault. My hope is to spark mature, informed discussions about these topics to best prepare our kids for the college environment and beyond.

Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by Leslie Lindsay. Join her on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook.

For more information, to connect with Grimes, M.D., via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE COLLEGE STUDENT HEALTH HANDBOOK, please visit: 

Order Links: 


Jill Grimes, MD, is PASSIONATE about PREVENTION. As a proud Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians, her practical and evidence-based advice covers all ages, genders and body parts. Dr. Grimes enjoys educating in and out of her exam rooms. She shares her message across all media platforms, from print magazines and online forums, to radio talk shows and television.

Dr. Grimes was a National Merit and President’s Endowed Scholar at Texas A&M University, the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Class of ’87 (Whoop!) She earned her medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine, and completed her family medicine residency in Austin, TX, in 1991. After twenty years of private practice in Austin, Dr. Grimes now works part time on campus at the University of Texas University Health Services. As a parent of college students herself, Dr. Grimes is especially empathetic to the medical challenges these young people experience.

Dr. Grimes is excited to be part of the team launching  KnowYourMeds in 2018, an app designed to help patients become more informed about their medications and better able to communicate with their healthcare providers.Dr. Grimes joined the UMASS medical school faculty as a clinical instructor in 2000, through an innovative internet-based ethics course that connected medical students with practicing family doctors across the country. In 2006, Dr. Grimes became a contributing author and member of the editorial board for the 5-Minute Clinical Consult textbook, and then served as an associate editor for the 2010-2015 editions. Dr. Grimes authored the award-winning Seductive Delusions: how everyday people catch STDs, which converted an awkward and boring subject to an engaging, educational resource. NOW AVAILABLE: Dr. Grimes’ upcoming humorous and evidence-based book“The ULTIMATE College Student Health Handbook: Your Guide for Everything from Hangovers to Homesickness”



Leslie Lindsay is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) and former Mayo Clinic child/adolescent psychiatric R.N.. Her work has been published in Pithead ChapelCommon Ground ReviewCleaver Magazine (craft and CNF), The Awakenings Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ruminate’s The WakingBrave Voices Literary MagazineManifest-Station, and others. Her cover art will be featured on Up the Staircase Quarterly in May 2020, other photography in Another Chicago Magazine (ACM), poetry in the Coffin Bell Journal, and CNF in Semicolon Literary Magazine; the 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA will be available late this summer. Leslie has been awarded one of the top 1% reviewers on GoodReads and recognized by Jane Friedman as one of the most influential book reviewers. Since 2013, Leslie has interviewed over 700 bestselling and debut authors on her author interview series. Follow her bookstagram posts @leslielindsay1.

~Updated, 2nd edition of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA coming late summer 2020~


#alwayswithabook #college #health #students #handbook #stayinghealthy #firstaid #gradgift #freshman15 #whattopack #mentalhealth #TheUltimateCollegeStudentHealthHandbook


[Cover and author image courtesy of PRbytheBook and used with permission. Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by Leslie Lindsay. Join her on Instagram @leslielindsay1 #alwayswithabook] 


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