It’s almost time for students to return to college or university after the long summer break, and that can mean that they are exposed to a whole range of bugs and viruses. Freshers flu is a well known phenomenon among new university students as large numbers of young people from all corners of the UK mingle during the first few weeks of a new term.
This is often made worse by the student lifestyle of late nights, junk food and drinking sessions. However, it can also be brought about by the stress of adapting to a new environment, dealing with increased academic demands, and making new friends.
Symptoms of freshers’ flu include feeling feverish (which can mean either feeling boiling hot or shivering cold, or even both), a dry cough, sore throat, sneezing, headache, and general all-round grogginess. The symptoms are usually those of a heavy cold rather than a genuine bout of flu, which is accompanied by aches and pains and extreme tiredness.
In some cases, flu will also cause loss of appetite, diarrhoea, stomach ache, sickness and vomiting. In general, freshers’ flu can be treated with plenty of rest and painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. It’s important to remember that you will become more dehydrated than usual, so you need to drink plenty of fluids.
Key signs of dehydration include urine that is darker in colour and stronger smelling than usual, thirst, dry mouth and lips, and feeling tired, dizzy or lightheaded. If you have lost a lot of fluids through vomiting, diarrhoea, or a persistently runny nose, then it is recommended to take a rehydration solution or electrolyte tablets.
Electrolytes are minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium that are essential for the healthy functioning of the body. They can be lost through the rapid excretion of bodily fluids, causing an imbalance. This can lead to cramps, weakness, and even seizures or heart rhythm disturbances.
When we are in normal health and not exposed to excessive heat or undertaking vigorous exercise, we should get our required electrolyte intake through a balanced diet and the body’s natural regulation system. However, when the body is under duress, an imbalance can occur, which is why healthcare professionals recommend taking a supplement.
A pharmacist can help to recommend suitable medicines and treatment plans. It’s important to remember that colds and flu are caused by viruses rather than a bacterial infection, and therefore will not respond to antibiotics. For people who are normally healthy, a GP appointment should not be necessary unless symptoms persist for over seven days.
People with weakened immune systems, long term medical conditions, and those who are pregnant or over the age of 65 may need to get extra medical help if their symptoms are severe.