Student health tips

Students face specific health problems. Here are five ways to take control of your health and stay as well as possible while you study.

Watch a video on catching glandular fever

Health professionals who understand students' needs can support you. Dr Chris Allen, a GP at Imperial College in London’s Health Centre, says, "Many students will be having sex, some for the first time, so it’s important to get advice on safe sex, sexual health and contraception.

"Being away from home for the first time, along with the academic and financial pressures of being a student, can lead to mental health problems, including anxiety and depression."

Below are Dr Allen's five health tips for new students.

Register with a local GP

If, like most students, you spend more weeks of the year at your college address than your family’s address, you need to register with a GP near your college as soon as possible. That way you can receive emergency care if you need it and access health services quickly and easily while you're at college.

"It’s especially important if you have an ongoing health condition such as asthma, diabetes or epilepsy," says Dr Allen. "Ideally, I like to see these patients within a few days of them starting college to check their health and medication."

You can choose to register with any local GP. The health centre attached to your college or university is likely to be the most convenient and the doctors working there will be experienced in the health needs of students. Many college health centres have good links with specialists such as psychiatrists, sports physicians, psychotherapists, counsellors and physiotherapists.

Find your local GP surgery.

Register with a dentist

Dental problems can’t be dealt with by doctors, so register with a local dentist. Not all treatment is free, even under the NHS. You can apply for help with health costs, including prescriptions and dental care, by filling out an HC1 form, available from most surgeries and pharmacies.

Find an NHS dentist

Check your vaccinations

Universities and colleges advise students to be immunised against meningitis C and mumps before starting their studies.

"These infections are rare, but occur more commonly among students. There have been several outbreaks of both infections in a number of UK universities in recent years," says Dr Allen. "Both are serious infections. Meningococcal meningitis can kill and mumps can damage fertility."

If you haven't already been immunised against meningitis C or mumps, arrange to be vaccinated by your doctor.

Get an annual flu vaccination if you have asthma and take inhaled steroids. You should also get a flu vaccination if you have a serious long-term condition such as kidney disease.

Read more about NHS vaccinations for teenagers.

Get contraception

Even if you don't plan to be sexually active while you're a student, it’s good to be prepared. Contraception and condoms are free to both men and women from any GP (it doesn't have to be your own) or family planning clinic.

"Students can make an appointment for advice on contraception and sexual health at any time. The sooner you do it, the better," says Dr Allen.

Find your local sexual health service.

Rest and eat healthy food

Student life may not be renowned for early nights and healthy eating, but getting enough sleep and eating well will mean you have a better chance of staying healthy. You’ll feel more energetic and be better equipped to cope with studying and exams.

Eating well doesn’t have to cost a lot and is often cheaper than takeaways. Taking the time to cook simple meals instead of eating out or buying ready meals is also healthier.

Buy a student cookbook to give you some ideas. Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, buy wholemeal bread and pasta instead of white, and keep fast food to a minimum.

Read more about healthy eating on a budget.

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