‘Freshers’ flu’ is a catch-all term referring to an assortment of ‘flu-like’ symptoms including sore throat, coughing, sneezing, fever, headache and fatigue… the list goes on. But generally speaking, you’ve probably not actually got flu – just a nasty cold – and, though it might feel like it, you’re not going to die! You’ll be back to full health soon enough – and you’ll get there faster by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
So, Freshers’ Week is here again. If you’re new to Sheffield, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed at how hectic life has been since the dreaded A-Level results day. Don’t worry; you’ve made a great choice in choosing to study at the University of Sheffield. You’ve probably lost count of how many freshers’ events you’re going to and you’re wondering how you’ll have time to sleep amongst the chaos. Nevertheless, you’re excited to get stuck into your first week of university life. Maybe you’ve heard rumours about the ‘inevitable’ Freshers’ flu from older siblings and friends – or maybe you haven’t – either way you’ll want to be prepared if you’re going to avoid it. Freshers’ is going to be tiring enough.
Socialising with so many new students from all over the country (and beyond!) is great. But meeting new people, especially in crowded places like bars and clubs, means you’ll be meeting new pathogens that will be difficult to avoid. These pathogens, commonly referred to as ‘germs’, include bacteria and viruses that you haven’t yet developed immunity to. So, when they get into your system, your body steps up its army of white blood cells to attack the pathogen intruders.
Without the chaos of freshers’, your immune system can battle all sorts before you’ve experienced any symptoms. But the long days of introductory events and longer nights embracing Sheffield’s nightlife can take a toll on your immune system. Spending the whole night drinking and dancing is fun; but stumbling out of Foundry at 3.30am into a greasy takeaway on West Street doesn’t help your body when it’s trying to deal with all these new pathogens. These will further weaken your immune system; it can’t function optimally whilst hungover, and sleep- and nutrient-deprived! Your body will thank you for keeping up good hygiene (hand sanitiser is your best friend), eating more fresh veg than fatty kebabs, and taking a break – you don’t have to go out every night!
If, unfortunately, you do succumb to freshers’ flu, it’s not the end of the world; you’ll “be reyt” within a week or two. The NHS recommends that you do not see your GP unless your symptoms persist for more than three weeks, suddenly get worse, or if you develop breathing difficulties or chest pain. Instead, try to maintain a number of healthy lifestyle choices:
- Go to your lectures: Try to rest as much as possible (but still try your best to go to your lectures – the first few weeks are important!)
- Wash your hands frequently: Wash your hands more frequently to reduce the spread of germs.
- Avoid drinking and smoking: Lay off drinking and smoking which introduce unnecessary toxins into your body.
- Eat your five-a-day: Especially leafy, green vegetables and citrus fruits to give your immune system a boost with an increased intake of vitamins A and C.
- Stay hydrated: Aim for eight glasses of water (or juice, tea or coffee) a day to reduce the risk of dehydration caused by fluid losses. Add a wedge of orange or lemon to your glass of water to add more flavour and vitamin C without the high sugar content of juice.
- Keep an eye on your mental health: Being away from home for the first time is hard. If you feel yourself slipping out of sorts, it’s okay to phone home for a chat with your family and send a message to your friends. Isolating yourself won’t help you to settle in any faster.
- Take painkillers: Painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol can help to reduce inflammation, fever, aches and pains. Be wary of taking these in combination with cold medicines – make sure to check the label as they often already contain painkillers. Choose one or the other as you don’t want to take more than recommended. Speak to a pharmacist if you are unsure.
Keep up these healthy habits for as long as you can (we recommend permanently!). Once you’re starting to feel a little better, get outside for a wander around Weston Park, or perhaps venture into the Peaks for some gentle exercise and a dose of vitamin D. The weather may not be great, but it all helps!
Freshers’ flu is frustrating, especially when, for the first few weeks, you’ll be lucky to hear your lecturers over everyone’s coughing. But you’ll get through it and hopefully by November the coughing in lectures will have mostly stopped. Embrace these few weeks – winter is coming!
Featured image: George Tuli