A brief guide to looking after yourself properly at university

Independence means it is time to take care of yourself - and others

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The Independent Online

Wherever life takes you after A-level results day 2011, it’s likely to bring increased independence. That means it’s time to take care of yourself.

Students, take note. When you arrive at university, make sure you register with a doctor near your term-time address. If there is a university doctor at your institution, they will be your best bet. If not, ask student services for a recommendation. Once registered, do everything you can to make sure you never have to pay them a visit. Don’t take unnecessary health risks.

Cook meat thoroughly. Throw food away if it’s out of date. Clean up after yourself. Food poisoning can be nasty, but it’s easy to avoid if you pay due care and attention. And when you’ve finished in the kitchen, take care in the bedroom, too. Protect yourself against STIs, not to mention unwanted pregnancy.

University often brings a certain lifestyle, and while that’s usually a whole lot of fun, it can quickly tip into a whole lot of woe. Know your limits when it comes to alcohol. Habitual drinking can be dangerous, and while every student will have nights of excess, these should be the exception, not the norm. Look out for your friends, too. If you’re worried about alcohol or substance abuse, visit alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk or ukna.org for free and confidential support.

Anyone living with teenagers and young adults, especially in environments such as halls of residence, must accept that germs will be shared. Bugs and colds will spread like wildfire. Living communally brings certain health risks, and meningitis is probably the most serious of these. Symptoms include a rash, stiff neck and an aversion to bright lights. It’s rare, but seek immediate medical attention if you’re concerned ( meningitis.org).

Gappers, meanwhile, may need to consider specific health risks. If you’re planning a trip abroad, especially in rural areas of poor countries, make sure you get the necessary vaccinations in good time before you leave.

Research these at www.netdoctor.co.uk. You should be able to get everything you need from your GP, although you may have to give them notice and you may have to pay, even on the NHS. If you also need to take medication while you’re away, such as anti-malarials, do it faithfully.

On a general note, whoever you are, wherever you are and whatever you do with your time, never walk alone at night, especially in quiet and badly lit areas. Always carry your phone. Never get in an unlicensed cab. Be careful who you trust. Respect your new independence, and keep yourself safe.