If you're moving away from home to go to university, it's important to look after your health while you're there. Practical steps you need to take include registering with a new GP and finding your local sexual health service.
1. 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.
Getting ill during the holidays
If you become unwell or need other medical treatment when you're at home or not staying near your university GP, you can contact your nearest practice to ask for treatment. You can receive emergency treatment for 14 days. After that you will have to register as a temporary resident or permanent patient.
Registration as a temporary resident allows you to be taken on to the practice's list for up to a three-month period. If you're registered with a practice but are away from your home area, you can register temporarily with a practice where you're currently staying and still remain a patient of your registered practice.
Try to have the following information available when you attend your appointment for the first time:
- details of your ongoing medical problems
- details of medical problems you have suffered in the past
- the name of any medicines you are currently taking
- details of any allergies
- contact details of your registered or previous practice
You can also visit an NHS walk-in centre or minor injuries unit. These can provide treatment for minor injuries or illnesses such as cuts, bruises and rashes.
However, they are not designed for treating long-term conditions or immediately life-threatening problems. You don't need to be registered and you don't need an appointment.
2. Register with a dentist
Dental problems can't be dealt with by doctors, so make sure you 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, which is available from most surgeries and pharmacies.
3. Check your vaccinations
Men ACWY vaccination
Students are now routinely offered a vaccination to prevent Meningitis W disease. The Men ACWY vaccine protects against four different causes of Meningitis and septicaemia – meningococcal (Men) A, C, W and Y diseases. It replaces the separate Men C vaccine.
Men ACWY 2016 - Eligibility Freshers born between the 01.04.1991 and 31.08.1997 starting University for the first time anywhere.
If born between 01.09.1996 and 31.08.1997 are eligible until 25 years irrespective of Men C status, but not eleigible if have already had a dose of Men ACWY after the age of 10 years.
Students entering University for the first time irresective of age who have never received a Men C vaccine.
All individuals under the age of 25 who have never received a dose of Men C vaccine.
Universities and colleges also advise students to be immunised against 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."
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.
4. 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.
5. Rest and eat healthy food
Prevention is better than cure, as the saying goes, so you'll greatly increase your chances of avoiding your GP's waiting room by taking care of yourself in the first place.
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 for affordable healthy recipe ideas.