Freshers’ flu: Causes, symptoms and cures

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Freshers Flu

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? 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).

Whilst 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 booboos you make when you start at university.

Causes of 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 just a bad case of the 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 combined 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 hypercondriacs?

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 too since you hail from different parts of the country/world and these are the perfect environment 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 you’re burning the candle at both ends. We’re not your mum, but we’re gonna tell you that anyway. Partying every night then 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? 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 youresign 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


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 of what’s making you feel rubbish, 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


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 lots 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. This stuff’s likely to turn your wee bright yellow for a few hours, but it works a treat!
  5. Get to bed – Now is the time to get tucked up and make sure you’re catching enough Zs and de-stressing. 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

alternative freshers

Credit: 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. Let me hear you say ‘Ohhmmmm…’
  5. Chicken soup – This is a granny’s age old remedy. Whether it really does work or not 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!

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

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