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Although January is the first month of the year, September is also one of new beginnings and brings with it a lot of change.

Summer has come to an end and as the new academic year commences, pupils either head to school or if you've passed your A levels, you might be headed to university for the first time this month.

As the hundreds of thousands of students descend on Manchester to indulge in Freshers' Week, they bring with it the dreaded 'freshers' flu.'

It's a rite of passage to go out drinking basically every night of the first few weeks of university; you're looking to make new friends and explore the city. But then you're up and out the next day to start your lectures.

So it's no surprise that this all becomes a bit too much and you end up getting caught up in a dose of freshers' flu.

So your first few weeks of experiencing university life aren't dampened, we've put together a guide on what freshers' flu is, what the symptoms are, and what you can do to prevent it.

What is freshers' flu and why do students get it?

The so-called freshers' flu isn't really a flu, and is instead a type of nasty cold that can be brought on by an accumulation of things.

Thousands of students from across the UK, and even the world, all come together in one place - therefore sharing variants of germs that your immune system hasn't previously encountered.

This exposure mixed with stress, alcohol, tiredness and potentially not eating properly can cause you to get freshers' flu.

Symptoms

They're typical cold symptoms such as exhaustion, headaches, sneezing, fever and a sore throat.

However it mustn't be confused with meningitis, which also includes muscle soreness and a rash - which can be tested using the glass test method. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/meningitis/symptoms/

How can you prevent it?

There are a number of things to do to prevent the likelihood of coming down with freshers' flu.

1. Bedtime routine

Sleep is hugely important for the body as it's one of the best ways to build the immune system back up and to repair cells.

If you're out most nights, it's likely that you're burning the candle at both ends, which is why you could be feeling exhausted.

Although easier said than done, try to get eight hours of sleep each night, and factor in a few early nights in, which hopefully won't stop your partying too much.

If you find that you're always heading out, then spare some time before leaving to have a power nap, and if possible, schedule some time to unwind and relax at home so your body doesn't feel like it's constantly on the go.

2. Healthy eating

Starting university is for most students when their culinary skills are put to the test. As well as living on a budget, it can seem impossible to get a decent meal down you, however those endless packets of super noodles probably aren't doing wonders for your body.

Break the ice with your flatmates by arranging to cook a group meal together and make sure you know where your local supermarket and fruit and veg shops are.

Bringing it back to basics, it's important that you're eating your five a day, therefore put some time aside to plan your meals ahead, which will also minimise food waste.

If everyone in your flat gets cooking, then you're less likely to leave your only hot meal of the day to a 3am chippy stop.

Swap on-the-go chocolate bars at university for healthy pre-preapred lunches and snacks, and always pack an apple or orange in your backpack for that much needed vitamin C.

3. Hygiene

The chances are that when you move to university, you're most likely sharing a flat with a large number of people. With up to 10 students sharing one space at a time, food is going to be left growing mould in the fridge, dirty plates left on the sides, and a toilet that hasn't been cleaned for weeks.

Although you may come across as square to begin with, creating a cleaning rota for the flat will definitely be appreciated in the long run and will stop the untidiness getting out of hand.

So you're not spreading germs, wash your hands more often than you would usually as you start out, and carry a hand sanitiser around with you. You may look a bit OCD but it's better than being sick with freshers' flu.

4. Drink responsibly

By no means are we saying to not drink alcohol during Freshers', but make sure you aren't drinking into dehydration. Between ordering an alcohol beverage, ask for a glass of water to sip, which will also ease your hangovers. Also before heading to sleep when you come in from a night out, always remember to drink a large glass of water before sleeping.

Especially if you're taking medication such as paracetamol to ease the symptoms of freshers' flu, make sure you drink plenty of fluids with them.

5. Light exercise

Staying in bed for three days and feeling sorry for yourself may not be the answer.

A number of scientific studies show the benefits of exercise, including how it can have a profound affect on your mental health.

We aren't asking you to carry out a marathon once starting university, but it might be a good idea to discover where your local park is and take a brisk stroll or jog.

It can be a great social activity or even better, you could sign up to a team sport at one of your university clubs.

Getting out into fresh air instead of lying horizontal for 72 hours also may ease your freshers' flu symptoms.

Dr Erich P Voigt, MD, an ear, nose, and throat doctor, told Business Insider: "Resting doesn't mean you should stay bed-bound.

"That thick mucus you need to cough out when you've got a cold can consolidate in your chest if you're laying in bed and not moving."

He added: "When we're not breathing properly and we're not moving around, our lungs can collapse a little bit and give atelectasis, which can then lead to fluid in the lungs or pneumonia."

Try these tips to avoid freshers' flu, however if you do become ill and are still unwell after four or five days, then book an appointment with your GP.

Make sure that registering at your university's doctors surgery is one of the first things you enroll to.

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on Manchester Evening News

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