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‘Freshers Flu’ returns with the new term

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, people have reported worse cold and flu symptoms


By Olivia Mackenzie Smith

Picture from "33/365 Down with the Sickness" by svenstorm

is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0


It is common at the beginning of Autumn to see an increase in cold, flus and other viral infections due to colder temperatures and the return of schools.


The term ‘freshers flu’ has even been given to the phenomenon of students mixing in halls, lectures and parties and passing around germs, causing many to get sick at the start of term.


However, some experts believe that this year may see more of these cases, with Dr Philippa Kaye telling the BBC “we’ve actually been seeing a rise in the number of coughs and colds and viral infections.”


Many students have reported flu symptoms. Second year music student James Munro shared:


“I’m now ill for the first time in one year and seven months, thankfully not Covid. Normally I’d get a cold every couple of months. I’m unsure whether it’s my immune system that has been weakened, the increased socialising and therefore increased exposure, or both that has led to the freshers flu.”


Another second-year music student, Anna Ross, said she experienced Freshers Flu symptoms last year such as sore head, blocked nose, and bad “phlegmy” cough. “This year I very nearly lost my voice and had a bad cough, it was rough,” she added.


Another first-year law student described it as “a really bad cough” that she had for over a week.

“I’ve been able to go to lectures and tutorials but I’ve had to think twice about going out ‘cause I need to take a COVID test”.

Theorists say that this apparent change in viral infection rates may be due to reduced social interaction in the past year, providing less opportunity for infection. The first months after lockdown saw a fall in non-Covid related infections.


Nick Edwards, Head of Student Support, gave this comment:


“Bringing people back together following periods of stricter national measures, across all settings, increases the risks of normal winter viruses so we ask students to continue to pay close attention to their symptoms and to avoid coming into classes when they are unwell to protect themselves and others in our community.”


When asked about this recent trend, Dr Diana Webster, Consultant in Public Health Medicine for NHS Grampian replied:

“As COVID control measures are relaxed it is considered likely we will see a return to our more usual level of non-COVID viral respiratory illnesses during the coming winter.”

“If this happens, the pressure on the NHS can be expected to increase substantially as services seek to cope with patients suffering from COVID as well as those experiencing the usual winter peak in other respiratory virus infections. Dr Webster recommended hygiene measures such as “good cough etiquette – use of tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze - or cough into your sleeve if no tissue is to hand, put the used tissue in a bin as soon as possible.”


Finally, Dr. Webster added that “most importantly, if you are eligible, get your flu vaccination.”


If you are concerned that you may be experiencing symptoms of Covid, you can find more information on the main symptoms on the NHS website.