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Freshers’ flu: Causes, symptoms and cures

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

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. 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.

Causes of freshers’ flu

Not to suggest that 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 dreaded illness is a mixture of physical and psychological factors, which together batter away at your immune system and make you feel rotten.

Contrary to popular belief, you won’t just be vulnerable to freshers’ flu if you kiss a load of new people during freshers’ week (although that will probably increase your chances of falling ill).

Freshers’ flu is normally caused by a combination of a few different things, including:

  1. Mingling

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

    As you’ll be meeting people from all over the country (and the world), some may be carrying viruses that you’re not immune to. This is the perfect environment for germs to spread in – 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 parents, we’d be telling you that you’re burning the candle at both ends. We’re not your parents, 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 just the fact that you can’t be bothered to cook, 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 defence against 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. So unless you resign yourself to hiding in your room for the foreseeable future, there’s nothing you can do to completely protect yourself.

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

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 a list of the most common freshers’ flu symptoms:

  1. Shivering

    Do you feel so cold that you’ve become permanently attached to your duvet, central heating and knitwear collection…?

  2. Fever

    …but at the same time so hot that you want to stick your entire body into a 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 this far on the list of 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 needing 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 you just have to deal with it as best you can.

Now it’s on to the cures!

Freshers’ flu cures

Freshers flu cures

If you’ve got a horrible case of the freshers’ flu, you’re gonna want to get rid of it, right? You’re probably keen to get back to full form so you can go out with your friends instead of laying in bed feeling sorry for yourself.

So, here are the definitive top tips for tackling the freshers’ flu beast:

  1. Eat healthily

    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 getting enough sleep 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 fortunately we’ve got a guide on how to quit smoking to help you through.

  7. Become a hygiene freak

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

  8. Look after your mental health

    It bears repeating – there’s a lot about freshers’ week and starting uni that can be stressful. Don’t be afraid to admit to yourself that you need some time out, and use our tips on looking after your mental health for some advice on keeping a level head.

Alternative cures

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. It’s basically the superhero of alternative cold medicines (and will keep away those pesky vampires too).

  2. Drink hot drinks

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

  3. Chuck some 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.

  5. Chicken soup

    This is a granny’s age old remedy. We can’t say for sure whether it really works or not, but it’s certainly worth a go and can make you feel all warm inside. Plus, it tastes great, so it’s a win-win situation.

  6. Be strong!

    Just grin and bear it! Not a solution, as such, but if you’re still struggling as this point there’s not much left to try!

Get well soon! And if you’re on the hunt for some tips on making it through your first few weeks at uni, check out our freshers’ survival guide.

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!