How to spot and (try to) avoid freshers’ flu

18 Sep 2019
By Georgina W., Student at University of Bristol

Freshers’ flu. The two words all students don’t want to hear. No matter how many bugs or vaccinations you’ve had in your life, you’re almost guaranteed to get it in some form or another within the first few weeks of the semester.

It’s caused by exposure to germs. Different people carry different bacteria and, typically, the people they interact with a lot become immune to those bacteria. At university, no one is immune to it, as they are all meeting for the first time.

In the first of a two-part series on freshers’ flu, University of Bristol student Georgina explains the symptoms of the infamous illness and how to avoid it.

I caught the dreaded bug within the first few days of freshers’ week. My nose was stuffy, my throat felt like it’d never taken a sip of water in its life and my body ached like I’d just completed a triathlon.

Freshers’ flu is like a cold on steroids. Some people are lucky and only have to put up with it for a few days, while others (like myself) have to suffer for weeks (nine in my case, seriously I was beginning to get worried).

While the illness tends to hit a lot of students in the first few months of the academic year, there are some who manage to dodge it. With a bit of due care and attention, you too may be able to escape the clutches of freshers’ flu.

How to (try to) avoid freshers’ flu:

  • Vitamins – make sure your body is getting all the vitamins it needs to remain healthy. The best way to do this is to include lots of fruit and veg into your diet.
  • Stay hydrated – with the hustle and bustle of the first few weeks of uni, it’s easy to see your fluid intake drop. Drink lots of water (or herbal tea) and you’ll keep your body operating as it should while flushing your system.
  • Rest – don’t go out every night of freshers’ week; take a few days off to recuperate. Have a movie night with your new flatmates, consider going to bed early and try to catch those magic eight hours of sleep per night. If you’re not taking care of yourself then you’re more likely to catch an illness.

Symptoms of freshers’ flu:

  • Headaches - is that the beginning of freshers’ flu or the beginnings of a hangover?
  • Nausea – see above.
  • High temperature – the main difference between the flu and a hangover is a fever.
  • Fatigue – you’re going to want to crawl into bed and never leave again.

Freshers’ flu isn’t the best welcome to university, but know that you’re not alone. Most of the people around you are suffering too. It will soon pass, and you will have the rest of the year to enjoy yourself.

For more detailed advice on how you can identify or treat flu, check out the NHS website. If you’re concerned that you’re not getting better, or your symptoms are extreme, consult your local GP.

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Drama student in Bristol. Lover of cats, nature and theatre.