GFo Higher: Keep healthy and happy

Sex and drugs and drink are on offer at universities and colleges but you do not have to succumb to their temptations, writes Jacqui Bealing
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Indy Lifestyle Online
In your first term you are probably going to meet a lot of new people. You may enjoy yourself to excesses that you have previously not experienced. Taking all this into account, it is not surprising that a number of students come down with "fresher's flu".

Illness always strikes when you are feeling low or when you have been burning the candle at both ends: circumstances which most students will experience within the first few weeks of college life. So if you are suffering or you are in a post-viral state, it's worth taking note of how to stay fit and healthy for the rest of the year.

Most people thrive if well fed, so keep an eye on your diet, particularly your vitamin intake. There's no need to take vitamin pills. Just try to include plenty of vitamin C in the form of fresh fruit as this helps to protect the immune system.

Viruses of the sort that lead to coughs and colds are spread through droplets in the air. You may not be able to do much about it if someone brings their stinking cold with them to a tutorial, but try to keep fresh air circulating in the room by having a window open - and stay out of sneezing distance. If you do succumb, try taking Paracetamol to reduce your temperature, keep your room cool and ease sore throats with lozenges and antiseptic throat sprays. There is no need to see a doctor.

Other nasties, such as diarrhoea and vomiting, might be caused either by a virus or bacteria from something you've eaten. To avoid the latter, make sure you cook food properly, especially ready-prepared meals that need heating up, and keep up standards of hygiene. Now is not the time to forget those childhood lessons about washing your hands before eating. At the first sign of illness, stay off food but sip water for 24 hours. Gradually reintroduce food, although avoid dairy products at first as these are harder to digest. If symptoms persist for longer than 48 hours, see your doctor.

You have probably heard a lot about meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia after a few cases have broken out recently at college campuses.

In fact, although these conditions can prove dangerous and are sometimes fatal, they are also extremely rare. They are caused by bacteria which are harmless to most of the population. However, the warning signs to look out for are: fever and vomiting, a severe headache, a stiff neck, an aversion to bright lights and purple spots that don't disappear when pressure is applied. If in any doubt, see a doctor immediately.

Although it's fun to stay up all night drinking and partying, don't underestimate the amount of sleep you need.

If you go for a long stretch on less than eight hours a night your studies will suffer - and you also won't enjoy socialising much either.

Finally, exercise is one of the best ways to stay healthy. Research has shown that those who take regular exercise of at least 20 minutes three times a week suffer fewer illnesses and generally feel better about themselves.