So what is Freshers' Flu?
Well, it’s not flu for a start. This is simply just a common term used to describe a combination of illnesses that are known to affect students in their first month or so at university. And although it’s most commonly associated with new students, it can also affect returning students too.
Symptoms may include coughing, sore throat, fever, tiredness and headaches, all of which can be triggered by a host of different viruses.
I wasn’t alone in my suffering that first week – many more of my classmates followed as the weeks went on. Why? Well, because of how common it is, so much so that 90% of new students are thought to experience it each year.
How do you catch Freshers' Flu?
Socialising and meeting people
Meeting new friends has to be one of the best things about going to university. However, being in close proximity to so many people from different walks of life, brings together multiple viruses and gives these viruses a chance to breed. The student union, freshers’ ball, lectures and halls of residence are perfect breeding grounds for these viruses.
Poor sleeping habits
It’s Freshers’ Week – who can blame you for celebrating with a night out, or four, five or six? However, our bodies simply are not used to such a big change in routine and many suffer as a result. Staying out till 4am is a good idea at the time, but try doing that a few nights every week and you will find that sleep deprivation will cause your studies will become harder, and the chance of missing lectures increases . . .
Drinking too much alcohol
The social aspect of university life is well known and documented. A few alcoholic beverages are to be expected, but overindulging increases the risk of a headache the next day. This inevitably will mean the rest of the day will be spent being tired and having a poor concentatration level.
The sheer pressure of starting university, moving out of the parental home, starting a new life, building new friendships and settling into a new routine can increase stress levels tenfold. One thing that surprised me was that stress mounted up incredibly easily and very quickly. This can have an immense impact on the stability of the immune system and leave us more susceptible to viruses.
We are all well aware that we should be eating our five-a-day as part of a balanced diet. However, for most, this is incompatible with a university lifestyle. Nights on the town, late-night studying and burning the candle at both ends may leave you with the urge to simply grab something quick and easy to eat – you may even end up on first name terms with the local delivery drivers (I know I did!). Remember it’s called fast food for a reason, but very rarely is it a nutritional option and it certainly won’t help your immune system.
How can I avoid Freshers' Flu?
Here are my top tips, which I know now but REALLY wish I knew before I started university…
1. Eat healthily
Of course, it may not always be possible to eat exactly five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – but if you can aim for this amount it will do you no harm. In fact, it will provide you with countless necessary vitamins for all round health. Takeaway chips, kebabs or noodles may taste good, but they rarely offer much nutritional value. Have a look at our recipe pages for some easy-to-cook recipes, packed full of essential nutrients!
2. Stay hydrated
This is so easy to do. Just 6-8 glasses of water a day can make the world of difference to your skin, your hair and your body. It will make you feel so much better too, and will assist in flushing out those toxins from the body. And before you ask – no, alcohol does not hydrate you!
3. Get plenty of rest
It is a strange tip to offer especially for Freshers’ Week, but a restful sleep of around 8 hours can prepare us mentally and physically for the day ahead. Freshers’ Week is a mass of social events all desperate for you to attend; balls, union events, hall parties… the list is endless. As boring as it sounds a couple of good sleeps even during the day, will make you feel better and perform better in your studies the next week.
4. Avoid smoking
Smoking is one of the worst things we can do to our bodies and the effects of smoking can last a lifetime. Try to quit smoking if possible, or at least try to reduce the amount you smoke as it can have a negative effect on the immune system making you far more suscepitble to catching the cold or flu. If you are a non-smoker, remember that Freshers’ Week is not an excuse to start.
5. Avoid stress
Stress in itself has a negative effect on the immune system, and can add to the possibility of becoming ill. Take time out to recharge your batteries, do some exercise, go to a quiet cafe, take a walk or go to the cinema.
6. Monitor your alcohol
It is inevitable that alcohol will be consumed by many new students at some point during Freshers’ Week, but the advice would be to drink in moderation. Stop when you feel you have had enough, avoid mixing your drinks, have a soft drink, or better still, water and plenty of it. For each alcoholic drink that you do consume, drink one non-alcoholic one. And, never leave your drink unattended.
7. Remember your hygiene
Freshers’ Week and university in general are busy places filled with people carrying a huge variety of different bugs from all over the country and even many parts of the world. A simple way to reduce the risk of picking up a bug is to wash your hands regularly, especially after toilet visits and before meals.
It’s also worth remembering that viruses can stay infectious for days or weeks. For example, they linger on banknotes for up to 17 days and 63% of surfaces on public transport are contaminated with viruses – so that’s two very good reasons to wash your hands more often. The use of a hand sanitiser is also beneficial.
8. Take a shot!
Sorry I don’t mean another Jagerbomb! Instead, try a shot of A.Vogel’s Echinaforce tincture (or tablets), which helps the body fight the symptoms of colds and flu by supporting the immune system. So when you’re packing your bags to head off to university, it might be an idea to pack a bottle of Echinaforce too.
And one last thing… life at university is exciting and demanding, but most of all it’s unforgettable. So soak it all up, stay healthy and enjoy every moment!
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