Health tips for Freshers

Do you know a student starting university this Autumn? Whether starting university in Portsmouth or elsewhere, here are some helpful health tips for freshers to ensure they are prepared.


It’s important for students to make sure they are up to date with their vaccinations ahead of starting university to protect themselves against a range of life-threatening illnesses. Many of these illnesses arise at the start of the academic year so students should ensure:

  • They’re up to date with their MenACWY, MMR and HPV vaccines (check their NHS app and if still unsure, check with their GP practice before term starts)
  • They know what the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia are and what to do if they or a friend shows signs

Registering with a GP

If students will spend more weeks of the year at their university address than their family’s address, they should register with a GP near to university.

This means they can receive emergency care if they need it, and access health services quickly and easily. This is especially important if they have an ongoing health condition.

They can choose to register with any local GP. Some universities may have a GP practice on campus or nearby. Search GP practices on the NHS website.

Know where to go for medical help

There are various places to seek medical advice and treatment, which include:

Pharmacies – pharmacists can offer support, advice and medicine for conditions including coughs, colds, sore throats, tummy trouble and aches and pains. Search pharmacies on the NHS website.

Urgent Treatment Centres – can help with a range of illnesses and injuries, including sprains and strains, bites, minor burns, and infections, up to minor head injuries and broken bones. Search urgent care services on the NHS website.

NHS 111 – can advise on the best place to get care if you’re not sure. Call 111 or visit 111 online

It’s important to only use the emergency department/999 if experiencing life threatening injuries or illnesses such as stroke, difficulty breathing, severe blood loss, chest pain and loss of consciousness.

Sexual health

It’s best to be prepared and know where to access sexual health services. Contraception and STI test kits can be accessed for free. Search for local sexual services on the NHS website.

For students in Portsmouth, learn about the Let’s Talk About It service here.

Mental health

It’s important to access support when it’s needed, and universities will usually have a student wellbeing service/team that can provide guidance and support.

In Portsmouth, students can also easily find local services by visiting:

Stay safe on nights out

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is a risk to safety and health.

DrinkAware’s Unit calculator shows how many units are in different types of alcohol – the app version makes it possible to track whilst drinking.

Read more tips on drinking safely. Whilst rare, drink spiking is a risk so it’s important to always keep drinks in sight and tell venue staff if you have any concerns.

In Portsmouth, if students need medical care, confidential advice or somewhere safe to sit and talk whilst on a night out, they can access Safe Space every Friday and Saturday from 10pm-3am at the Civic Offices in Guildhall Square – also open every night except Sundays during Freshers fortnight (Friday 16 September – Saturday 1 October.

Stay fit and healthy

Simple steps such as eating well, staying hydrated, keeping active and getting enough sleep will help ensure a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Students may wish to sign up to a sports society at university if they enjoy team sports. Or alternatively they could try out the gym or exercise classes. There are also easy and no-cost ways to sneak more physical activity into the day such as walking or cycling instead of using public transport.

Eating well does not 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. The free One You Easy Meals app – available on the App Store and Google Play has lots of ideas.