Science Behind… Freshers’ Flu

You’ve finally arrived at University and you’re buzzing with a mixture of excitement and nerves; fresher’s week is about to kick off and you can’t wait to get stuck in and start meeting people. However, the incredible rollercoaster ride that is your first few weeks is likely to bring with it something slightly less desirable: freshers’ flu.

The term ‘freshers’ flu’ refers to the respiratory tract infections that commonly affect students at the beginning of the academic year. The infections result from the intense mix of viruses brought to the University by students from all around the country – and the world. Around 90% of us will contract freshers’ flu during the first few weeks of term making it virtually impossible to avoid (unless you remain alone in your room the whole time, which is not advisable!).

Despite its misleading name, freshers’ flu typically tends to be a bad head-cold rather than flu itself. Symptoms range from those associated with a mild cold (coughing, sneezing and feeling tired) to more severe flu-like symptoms that persist for a longer period and could leave you bed-ridden.

As well as being an exhilarating and unforgettable experience, Freshers’ Week can also be quite a stressful time. Moving away from home, becoming more independent and adapting to a new environment with new people can really take its toll on you. You will need to prepare yourself for a full-on week that will probably involve late nights, junk food and copious amounts of alcohol, all of which are rather unhelpful when it comes to beating the flu.

The best advice, as boring as it may sound, is to take care of your body whilst enjoying yourself. If you’re drinking lots of alcohol, balance it with lots of water. It will help minimize the hangover the next day, meaning you’re not feeling awful at the next event. Nutrition is unlikely to be one of your top priorities during this time but it will really pay off if you try and eat some fruit and veg each day; opt for vegetable based soups and drink some orange juice with your breakfast (or at least in your cocktails!) and it may be worth investing in some vitamins.

Use any free time between events to catch up on rest. You’ll feel more refreshed and you’ll likely be in a better mood when you’re next socialising (no-one wants to talk to the grumpy person who is yawning in the corner of the room). Taking a night off drinking isn’t an entirely bad idea either – and in some cases you may remember the friends you made slightly better too!

Don’t let the threat of freshers’ flu worry you too much – remember everyone is in the same boat. You most likely will not get seriously ill, but if you find yourself feeling particularly unwell or your symptoms persist for an unusually long period, make sure you register with the doctor’s surgery on campus and make a visit.

Briony Dean


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