Niamh Wallace, Lifestyle Editor.
I realise this is probably not the article you want with all the Freshers hype about to begin, but it’s the article you need.
With startling stories of drink spiking, meningitis, and other terrifying tales that circle their way around your peer group, you might dismiss these things thinking that they won’t ever happen to you. And if you take precautions, they won’t. So read on and see how to make Freshers partying that bit safer, so you can live longer and party more.
The Meningitis Jag
If you haven’t booked into your clinic to get this, there’s still time. 16-25 year-olds are the second most vulnerable age group to the disease, with Freshers particularly at risk. Meeting lots of new people from all over the country and afar, plus alcohol lowering your immune system, makes you more vulnerable to meningitis, and it can be fatal if it isn’t caught in time. So don’t take a risk, get vacc’d. For more info on the disease read up about it on the NHS website.
Chances are, you’re going to get sick during or after Freshers for the reasons listed above, plus getting soaked in the mile long queue into your first BOT Wednesday. Be prepared for it, because you don’t want to be starting university feeling run down. You want to be at your best to take on the year. Stock up on ibuprofen, soups, and citrus fruits to get your immune system back up and kicking. It’ll become a group activity to bond with your new friends towards the end of the week as you all sit around in dressing gowns watching daytime TV feeling sorry for yourselves. There’s no better way to bond than over a glass of Berocca.
The newfound freedom of university can cause you to make reckless decisions with your health. Your flatmates suggest going out for the fifth time this week and you say yes while your liver screams NO. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning can include bleeding gums, bruising and other symptoms listed on the NHS website.
This can also be fatal if not remedied, and is common amongst students. To avoid it, simply just be mindful of your drinking. This doesn’t mean you have to miss out on social events. To many of us, a sober night playing group mom sounds like a death sentence but it could save your life once in a while. And being the only one in the group who can remember the night before is a position of power that money can’t buy.
90% of students have probably been warned about this by their parents going to their local clubs at home. However, Belfast is a very different place to go out than your small rural nightclub in the middle of nowhere, especially during Freshers week. Predators will be well aware of the number of vulnerable young people out partying in the big smoke for the first time, and will be able to camouflage themselves better amongst the larger crowds. All genders should be aware of this problem as it isn’t unique to women, with spiking leading to mugging and other forms of assault. The answer to this problem is if you’re buying drinks (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) in the club, do not set them down, and if you do, abandon them completely. Or even better, buy a corona or desperado, they are much less easy to slip something into than an open top plastic cup. Plus you reduce plastic use and save the turtles. Buy 2 for 5, stay alive.
Don’t ever receive drinks from strangers, even if they appear to be bar staff. Always trust your gut.
You can read more about how to tell if your drink has been spiked here, and you can even buy kits to test the safety of your drink.
If you notice one of your friends acting differently, such as with enlarged pupils or not being able to walk or speak properly, take them home and give them lots of water. If symptoms continue to worsen, you can contact your halls security, or take them to A+E. Read more about your rights on this subject here, as the culprit can receive 10 years in prison for the offence.
Looking after each other
The biggest safety asset you have on a night out is your friends. Your mum probably tells you every time you go out that there’s safety in numbers, and she’s right. Never leave a friend on their own, always let someone know where you are if you’re going for an “adult sleepover”, always have enough money and charge in your phone to get you there and back, and always make sure to get a taxi back if you’re by yourself. If you are living in Elms, the only taxi company that is allowed past the gates is Fonacab. Everyone likes going on a mad one now and again, but honestly it isn’t worth letting your guard down so much that someone ends up hurt. Have a great time, but look after each other.