Prepare your teenager for all aspects of uni life

It’s important the parade continues – but safely

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In a few weeks, teenagers all over the country will be heading off to university for the first time.

As well as being exciting, fleeing the nest and embarking on this new phase can be an anxiety-ridden time too – for both teens and the parents they’re leaving behind.

Having to deal with their own finances, manage busy timetables, and get to grips with living in a whole new town with new people can be overwhelming.

But looking after your body and mind is just as important as getting those grades. Here are five key categories all students should be aware of.

· Alcohol

Socialising is a big part of uni life, and for many students this means drinking.

While it’s normal for young people to enjoy a drink, too much alcohol can impact on your health in a number of ways. Drinking extremely heavily carries serious long-term health risks, including liver damage. Also, mixing drinks and binge drinking puts you at risk of alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal.

On a night out, make sure you stay with friends so you can keep an eye on each other and make your way home together. Avoid mixing your drinks and pace yourself – it’s a good idea to alternate with a soft drink or water.

· Diet and exercise

Ensuring you have some regular exercise is crucial and joining a university sports team means you can socialise at the same time.

Most students are unlikely to have super healthy meal plans but try and eat well for at least four days out of each week – packing in fruit and veg, complex carbs like pasta or a jacket potato, and protein.

· Sexual health

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are on the increase so it’s a good idea to go for tests at the start of term, rather than waiting until you are worried you’ve caught something, as some STDs don’t always cause physical symptoms. Many STDs are easily treated with a course of antibiotics, but getting them detected early is important.

Girls should make sure they are vaccinated against Human papillomavirus (HPV) and contraception is vital.

· Meningitis and other contagious illnesses

Students are what’s known as a ‘close community’, which means when somebody has an infectious disease, chances are others will too.

These include tonsillitis/glandular fever and flu, which, not to be confused with a common cold, will leave you very unwell.

At-risk groups can ask for flu jabs, but there are no vaccines for glandular fever.

Teenagers are one of the most at-risk groups for meningitis C, which can be fatal if not treated immediately.

Most UK teens will have been vaccinated at school, but if they weren’t, it’s not too late. Go to your GP and ask for the vaccine.

Being aware of the symptoms is also important, and these typically include a fever, severe headache and drowsiness, vomiting, stiff neck, and the tell-tale red rash.

· Depression and anxiety

Lots of people think student life is all about fun, being carefree and not having any real worries. But university can be a tough time for many students, and the mental health of this age group should not be ignored.

Worries about finance, keeping up with workloads, social anxieties and even severe homesickness are all common factors that could lead to depression and anxiety.

Making friends and building a support network is important. And all new students should find out about the support services available at their campus, so they know where to go should they find themselves struggling.