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Freshers’ flu: Causes, symptoms and cures

You're four days into freshers' week: your head is pounding, you're cowering under your bed covers and you feel absolutely rotten. Where did it all go wrong? 

Freshers flu

Chances are you'll probably come down with a case of the “freshers' flu” at least once during your time at university (and as the name suggests, most likely during your induction week).

While freshers' flu obviously isn't the end of the world – although it may feel like it is at the time – it's not the most convenient of times to be getting sick when you have so much going on, so many new people to meet and so many nights out to attend.

If you're determined to do everything you can to avoid catching your dose, or have already been affected and are looking for the holy grail of cures, this is the guide for you.

Catching freshers' flu is likely to be one of many boo-boos you make when you start at university. Find out what other common mistakes students make during Freshers' Week!

Causes of freshers' flu

Freshers flu

Not to suggest you're being dramatic or anything, but we should clarify that freshers' flu isn't really a form of flu after all. It's actually more like a bad cold, although this doesn't take away from the fact it can make you feel really rubbish for a week or so.

Just to get a bit science-y on you for a sec, the reason behind the dreaded illness is a mixture of physical and psychological factors, which together batter away at your immune system and make you feel rotten.

Did you know apparently the term ‘freshers' flu' is pretty much exclusively a UK thing. Are we a nation of hypochondriacs? Are we?!

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t just acquire freshers' flu because of all these new friends you've been kissing (although this probably plays a part if you've been partaking in a lot of this).

Freshers' flu is normally caused by a few different things combined, including:

  1. Mingling

    You will no doubt be meeting loads of new people from all over the place – in clubs, lecture halls and other contained environments (as well as shaking a lot of hands).

    Some may be carrying viruses you're not immune to since you hail from different parts of the country/world, and these are the perfect environments for germs to spread. Get some antibac hand gel in your pocket and you're sorted!

  2. Lack of sleep

    We know, there are so many events going on that you simply can't afford to miss. But if we were your mum, we'd be telling you that you're burning the candle at both ends. We're not your mum, but we're gonna tell you that anyway.

    Partying every night and following late nights with early morning lectures doesn't do your immune system any favours. Taking a night or two off the sauce won't hurt you, we promise.

  3. Eating junk food

    Whether it's due to the accumulation of ever-so-cruel hangovers or that you just can't be bothered cooking, eating loads of junk food and takeaways will only make you feel a whole lot worse. Get some decent food down you and give your body a chance to defend itself!

  4. Alcohol

    Drinking too much alcohol will weaken your defences to viruses. Maybe that next round isn't such a good idea after all. Tea, anyone?

  5. Stress

    Moving to a new place or being thrown into a completely new environment can be stressful in all sorts of ways. Whether you're feeling homesick or worried about making friends, don't ignore how you're feeling as it'll only make you feel worse.

As you might've noticed, a lot of these causes are kind of unavoidable during freshers' week, meaning that unless you resign yourself to hiding in your room for the foreseeable future, there's nothing you can do to protect yourself 100%.

However, just being aware of some of the causes and avoiding them if and when you can is a step in the right direction!

Freshers' flu symptoms

Freshers flu

So how do you know if you have a dose of the freshers' flu? Well, if you do, chances are you will most likely know about it.

Just in case you're unsure, here's is a list of the most common freshers' flu symptoms:

  1. Shivering

    Have you become permanently attached to your duvet, central heating and knitwear collection…

  2. Fever

    …but at the same time you want to stick your entire body into an bath of ice cubes?

  3. Dry cough

    A big turn off if you're looking for love during freshers' week.

  4. Sneezing

    Well, at least people will be blessing you left, right and centre?

  5. Headache

    Scrap that, you don't want to communicate with anyone right now.

  6. Grogginess

    Fair play on managing to get so far with these symptoms. Bear with us, cures are next!

As you can see, the symptoms are much like a common cold and although they won't leave you destined for a hospital bed, they probably will make you feel like your world is ending. Just know that it will soon be over, and until then it's time to (wo)man up and deal with it.

Now it's on to the cures!

Freshers' flu cures

Freshers flu cures

If you have got a horrible case of the freshers' flu, you're likely to want to get rid of it, right? It's time to start working at getting yourself back to full form so you can go back out with your friends instead of laying in bed feeling sorry for yourself.

So, here are the definitive top tips to overcome that mountain:

  1. Eat healthy

    Yes, we know, this is pretty much common sense, but maybe you still need a little reminder. If you've got loads of vitamin C in your system and get your regular fix of fruit and veg, you'll give your body a fighting chance. Come on, work with us guys!

  2. Drink lots of water

    Keep yourself hydrated so you're constantly flushing out all of those freshers' flu toxins from your weakened body.

  3. Take paracetamol

    This isn't a cure as such, but it will help to make the symptoms a little more bearable (so it feels like a cure).

  4. Berocca yourself up

    If you don't think your diet is up to scratch and you squirm at the sight of broccoli, you can get your essential vitamins by taking supplements like Berocca (or the shop's own-brand version – basically the same product, but for less money!).

  5. Get to bed

    Now is the time to get tucked up, make sure you're catching enough Zs and de-stress. Taking one or two nights off from socialising will do you wonders (and prevent you from passing your dreaded lurgy on to some other poor unsuspecting fresher).

  6. Stop smoking

    Cigarettes are nasty to your immune system, and they definitely don't help a sore throat either. Obviously stopping is a lot easier said than done, but at least try an e-cig if you really need to stop the craving.

  7. Become a hygiene freak

    As we mentioned, lots of people and crowds means lots of germs around. Get the antibac hand gel on the go to keep your hands clean at all times.

Alternative cures

Freshers flu home remediesCredit: Joe Mabel

We aren't witch doctors or anything, but we thought we might supply you with some alternative freshers' flu cures for those of you who are up for trying something a little different:

  1. Eat lots of garlic

    Garlic is a natural antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and an antiseptic, so it's basically the super hero of alternative cold medicines (and will keep away those pesky vampires too).

  2. Drink hot drinks

    This will offer you a bit of comfort whilst also loosening any of the gross stuff in your throat. Chopped ginger and lemon in hot water is a sure fire winner!

  3. Chuck the soothers down your throat

    Opt for the antibacterial ones over the ones that look like they'll taste nice.

  4. Meditate or do yoga

    Getting rid of some stress can help your body expel some of those toxins. Lemme hear you say ‘Ohhmmmm…'

  5. Chicken soup

    This is a granny's age old remedy. We can't say whether it really does work or not, but it's certainly worth a go and can make you feel all warm inside. Awwww…

  6. Man/woman up

    Just grin and bear it!

Get well soon! And if you're on the hunt for some more freshers' survival advice, we've got just the ticket.

Got any hot tips on how to dodge/deal with/cure a bad case of freshers' flu? Let us in on the secret in the comments below!

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