Health at University: the infamous and inevitable Freshers’ Flu

Uncontrollable coughing and sneezing can be heard throughout lecture theatres across the country at the start of the academic year – you swore you wouldn’t get it, but now the worst has hit and you have to admit it: you’ve got freshers’ flu. So, what do you do?
Freshers’ Flu affects the majority of university students every year and isn’t typically a ‘flu’ – it’s more commonly described as a heavy cold but has become entrenched in British culture all because of its alliterative name.
Freshers’ Week brings with it expectations of late nights, fast food and an irregularly high consumption of alcohol. However, this combination as a regular lifestyle in a small period of time can have an impact on your health and immune system. Freshers’ Flu usually occurs because infection rates are high when you interact with a lot of different people who may have existing symptoms.
It is most usually described as a flu that new students receive because of the sheer amount of people you meet, however fleetingly, in Freshers’ Week, which subsequently increases your chances of catching a cold. Freshers’ Flu can become a problem because other more serious conditions can appear similar to it: although it is often just a passing period of feeling under the weather, it is worth being aware that illnesses such as meningitis can be dismissed as trivial. If you’re in any doubt, seek medical help from your local GP surgery, university health centre or ring 111 for non-emergency assistance.
It is important, therefore, to be able to identify Freshers’ Flu in all of its guises. It can make you cough or sneeze, which also increases your likelihood of spreading disease through these forms of spreading viruses. You can also feel a bit feverish and can have a sore throat or headaches. Similarly, you can feel a bit blocked up and under the weather, and it can cause an increased susceptibility to the cold, so it’s worth wrapping up warm.
You can prevent getting Freshers’ Flu by protecting your immune system as much as possible, as it can arise as a result of psychological as well as physical factors. A weakened immune system can occur as a result of moving away from home and the stresses that come with starting afresh in a new city. It can be made worse, however, by tiredness, poor diet and consumption of alcohol in excess, hence the name ‘Freshers’ Flu’. It can be tempting or expected of you to go out every night, but this only increases your chances of feeling under the weather, so a night or two off is definitely advisable!
So, what happens if you’ve already got Freshers’ Flu? Keep the tissues on hand and keep yourself wrapped up warm, make sure you keep hydrated and eat a varied diet with enough fruit and vegetables. Make sure you get enough sleep and limit alcohol consumption and smoking, which will undoubtedly make these symptoms worse. Cough sweets can help or have soup or soothing (non-alcoholic) drinks to help a sore throat such as tea or Berocca (or a student-friendly supermarket own-brand version) and seek paracetamol from a pharmacist or supermarket for any pain-relief.
It’s important to remember that while Freshers’ may just last one week, Freshers’ Flu can strike at any point in the year. An apple a day may not be such a bad idea.

Image: Free-Photos via Pixabay

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