Pre-Uni Health Checklist
Young adults leaving home to start a new phase in their life at university can be exciting and daunting for both the student and the parents alike. After speaking with experienced university students and freshers, HealthFirst has compiled health-related top tips to ensure everyone is as prepared as they can be.
Vaccines and a pre-departure medical check-up
A health check-up before leaving for university can be a good idea. This offers the opportunity to check vaccine status including tetanus, MMR (to protect against measles, mumps and rubella), HPV (to protect against cervical cancer and some genital warts) and meningitis (the MenACWY vaccine can protect against four strains of meningitis). The gathering and mixing of people during Freshers Week can be a breeding ground for illness to spread so it is best to be as protected as possible.
It is also an opportunity to make sure that if you take any regular medications, you have enough to last until you can see a doctor on campus, or to last until you get home for the next holidays.
Where do I go if I don’t feel well?
If you move to a university in a different country, it is important to think about how you will access a doctor if needed. Find this out before you go or enquire during Freshers Week. Have you heard of Freshers’ flu? With all the mixing and activities of new students this can spread easily and last for anything from a few days to a couple of weeks. Symptoms include a sore throat, headaches, body aches, cold-like symptoms, coughing, tiredness or weakness, and a fever. If you feel unwell rest up, drink plenty of water and get guidance from a pharmacist or doctor about taking paracetamol or other medication to help with the symptoms.
Young adults and university students are at higher risk of meningitis. This inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, which unrecognised, can rapidly lead to septicemia (blood poisoning) which can be life-threatening. Do you know what to look for? This helpful symptom checker shows what to look out for. Make sure to get medical help immediately if you are concerned: https://www.meningitis.org/meningitis/check-symptoms/teens-young-adults
How’s your mental health?
Going to university is an exciting time but it can also be an unsteadying moment. It is a period where students may encounter mental health difficulties, even when no previous mental health illness has been diagnosed.
Moving to an unknown big city and being alone are some of the key concerns that young people have. Remember that making real friendships takes time. You will meet a lot of people along the way who may initially be company but with whom true friendship may not flower. Be patient and kind to yourself!
Every student is different, but some will find they need time away from university to ‘quieten’ themselves for a weekend and have some time for self-care. Have you planned where you can go if you need ‘time out’? A friend or family member that can be depended on if you need to escape for a weekend and be pampered a little.
Stem4 https://stem4.org.uk/ is a UK-based mental health charity loaded with information for young people themselves as well as their parents or others supporting them.
University life may also bring with it a new drinking, partying and nightlife culture. You are not alone if you are concerned about this. Do not feel pressured into drinking alcohol or taking drugs to ‘keep up’ with others. Talk to Frank https://www.talktofrank.com/ gives honest information for young people. And Young Minds also provides a guide about drugs and alcohol for young people: https://www.youngminds.org.uk/young-person/coping-with-life/drugs-and-alcohol/
Relationships and practising safe sex
Young people aged 15-24 are the most likely to be diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some of the university students we spoke to said it is one of their top priorities to know where their nearest sexual health clinic is when starting university. This is to ensure they are protecting themselves from pregnancy and STI’s, as well as where to go for testing and treatment should they need to.
Money can be a concern for some students. Learning how to manage a budget for the first time and making sure you have enough money to eat healthily is essential.
Some parents put together a cookbook for their students with simple, healthy recipes covering a variety of budgets. The students we spoke with said these were really useful tools and helped with planning and shopping.
Attending a First Aid course
Have you considered attending a first aid course before you leave home? Our First Aid courses teach the skills to know when you, or those around you, may need medical attention. Preparing a small first aid kit is useful to care for yourself if you have a minor injury.
Some First Aid essentials can be found here: www.child-matters.co.uk/first-aid-essentials-for-teenagers-surviving-university-for-the-first-time