Meningitis; what is it? What to watch for!

What is it?

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining that covers the brain and spinal cord.  It is caused by bacterial or viral infections.  The bacterial form can be fatal and causes serious long term health complications – especially if not treated early.

How do you get it?

Close contact is needed to pass it on to others such as kissing, coughing or sneezing near to others.  Living close together in shared accommodation can pose a risk, as does sitting close together in lecture theatres, though less so. Thats why all Freshers should be immunised!

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms can appear in any order and some may not appear at all;

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle pain
  • Fever with cold hands and feet
  • Drowsy – difficult to wake
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Stiff neck
  • Dislike of bright lights
  • Pale blotchy skin
  • Spots/rash (that do not fade under pressure, do the ‘glass test’)
  • Convulsions/seizures

What can I do?

Get vaccinated – MenACWY vaccine directly protects vaccinated people from 4 strains of meningococcal meningitis and stops them from carrying the bacteria.

Familiarise yourself with signs and symptoms and be alert.

Look out for yourself and friends.  Share awareness and care for each other – don’t assume an illness is hangover or touch of flu – if you think a friend or housemate is ill trust your instincts and seek medical help.  Keep an eye on your friends if they are getting a lot worse quickly seek help.

How do I get help?

Call the GP or NHS 111 if out of GP opening hours

Describe the symptoms and say that you think it could be meningitis.

In an emergency dial 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest Accident and Emergency Department.

Download our ESC Student Health App for more info, on your phone. on the App Store now.


For further information







World Sleep Day 18th March 2016

It’s World Sleep Day on 18th March 2016: intended to be a celebration of sleep, and this year the slogan is “Good sleep is a reachable dream”! About 25% of us struggle with our sleep, and this can negatively affect our health and wellbeing in many ways. We should be aiming for about 7 or 8 hours per night, but it’s well known that many students are missing out on a good night’s sleep-probably the most powerful performance enhancer in the world. It’s not unusual for students to work longer than they sleep, especially in the run up to exams.

So how can you stop your sleep suffering at times of stress? There are some basic dos and don’ts. First alcohol, which is both sedating and stimulating, so although we can use it to fall asleep, drinking close to bedtime makes us more likely to wake up in the early hours. Second caffeine and stimulant drugs: it’s best to avoid these within 6 hours of bedtime and some of us find cutting caffeine out completely during the day can help. Third, LCD phone and tablet screens last thing at night: they emit “blue light” similar to sunlight, confusing our body clocks. Fourth, we should avoid taking a nap during the day however tired we are, as this disturbs our body rhythm. Fifth, regular daytime exercise (but not too near to bedtime) can help us feel more tired and relaxed at the end of the day. All of these general tips for sleeping better are often called “sleep hygiene” and more detail about them can be found at
Whatever the initial cause of our poor sleep, worrying about it, about feeling tired the next day and about how this might impact on our life can often make the problem a lot worse. Once this situation arises, the trick can actually be to accept our anxieties. Dr Guy Meadows has written “The Sleep Book“, an excellent self-help manual with clever exercises to prevent intrusive anxious thoughts from disturbing sleep, such as giving our worries nicknames and learning to merely observe them. The Student Counselling Service runs mindfulness groups, which can also help students break their bad sleep patterns. If you feel that your sleep problems are significantly impacting on your physical and mental wellbeing and self-help and counselling don’t feel like enough, the GPs at Students’ Health Service can advise you further. It’s important to prioritise sleep, because without it University life can definitely be more stressful and less productive.

Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2016 #EDAW16 by Dr Hugh Herzig

Did you know that next week 22nd – 29th Feb is Eating Disorders Awareness Week? Perhaps you already feel bombarded by news bulletins about the rising incidence of EDs… or how these days younger and younger people are affected. So why the need to be made more aware of EDs?

At Student Health we have good reasons to want to raise awareness of EDs:
• Eating disorders are not rare and exotic illnesses. They are common in the UK population, particularly so in adolescence and early adult years, and particularly so in student populations.
• They have a profound effect upon mental health, eroding well being and self esteem, so that nothing the sufferer does is ever good enough.
• They have serious physical effects on pretty much every biological system of the body such as skin and dental damage, gastrointestinal and heart problems, bone marrow and liver damage, hormone suppression and hastening the onset of osteoporosis. In fact, EDs lead to greater mortality than any other group of mental illnesses.
• Living with an ED can make life very hard indeed… friendships and social activities are deprioritised, leading to people feeling more and more isolated, anxious and depressed.
• Concentration and stamina can be much affected, so the sufferer cannot perform physically and academically to her/his potential
• Family and friends often don’t know what to say, or worry they will cause upset or have their head bitten off if they express their concern
• Some of our patients at Student Health get so unwell that they need to take time out from university. For those such as medics, vets and dentists whose degrees lead on to accreditation with a national professional body, their ED may make them unfit to practice as a registered professional.

ED Awareness week may provide an opportunity to break the taboo that surrounds EDs.

You may feel able to bring up this sensitive topic with that friend you’ve been worrying about, but who seems always to want to keep herself to herself. It is likely that doing so will help her… even if she seems not to appreciate it at the time.

If you have severe eating and weight anxieties yourself, this week may be the time to tell someone a bit about it, allow a friend to support you, maybe even seek help from your doctor. All the staff at Student Health are experienced in helping people with EDs, and in Bristol we have good services to treat eating disorders, including the First Step service which offers psychological treatments in our very own Health Centre

We are here to help YOU!

Boost your finances this New Year- Stop smoking!

If you need motivation other than possibly saving over £270 a month (20/day @£9) then read on about the benefits of stopping.

Better sex– Stopping smoking improves the body’s blood flow, so improves sensitivity. Men who stop smoking may get better erections. Women may find that their orgasms improve and they become aroused more easily. It’s also been found that non-smokers are three times more appealing to prospective partners than smokers (one of the advantages, perhaps, of smelling fresh).

Better skin– Stopping smoking has been found to slow facial ageing and delay the appearance of wrinkles. The skin of a non-smoker gets more nutrients, including oxygen, and can reverse the sallow, lined complexion that smokers often have.

Reduce stress– Nicotine addiction makes smokers stressed from the ‘withdrawal’ between cigarettes. The pleasant feeling of satisfying that craving is only temporary and is not a real cure for stress. Also, the improved levels of oxygen in the body mean that ex-smokers can concentrate better and have increased mental wellbeing. Scientific studies show that people’s stress levels are lower after they stop smoking

Better teeth– Giving up tobacco stops teeth becoming stained, and you’ll have fresher breath. Ex-smokers are less likely than smokers to get gum disease and lose their teeth prematurely. Kicking the smoking habit gives your senses of smell and taste a boost. The body recovers from being dulled by the hundreds of toxic chemicals found in cigarettes.

Better breathing– people breathe more easily and cough less when they give up smoking because their lung capacity improves. In your 20s and 30s, the effect of smoking on your lung capacity may not be noticeable until you go for a run, but lung capacity naturally diminishes with age. In later years, having maximum lung capacity can mean the difference between having an active, healthy old age and wheezing when you go for a walk or climb the stairs.

Live longer– Half of all long-term smokers die early from smoking-related diseases, including heart disease, lung cancer and chronic bronchitis. Men who quit smoking by 30 add 10 years to their life. Quitting not only adds years to your life, but it also greatly improves the chance of a disease-free happier old age.

Live well– Within two to 12 weeks of stopping smoking, your circulation improves. This makes all physical activity, including walking and running, much easier.
Quitting also boosts your immune system, making it easier to fight off colds and flu. The increase in oxygen in the body makes ex-smokers less tired and less likely to have headaches.
You are 4 times more likely to quit with help from your local NHS Stop Smoking Service especially with the use of medication. So don’t wait! Start stopping today and contact your GP surgery or local Stop Smoking Clinic.

National Stress Awareness Day 2015- a reflection by a Student Health Service (SHS) GP

Yesterday was the UK’s ‘National Stress Awareness Day’. As part of this, the ‘International Stress Management Association’ has produced some excellent resources to help combat stress that can be accessed using the following link:
Reading the material on this website led me to reflect on how much of the work I do as a GP, on a day-to-day level is, in part, attributable to stress. Stress is of course a normal and natural part of everyday life that is necessary for our survival. At its best, stress helps us to function and optimise our performance, e.g. during exams. At its worst, stress can be destructive, causing both mental health issues as well as physical symptoms.
The link below gives a 10 point plan to help ‘stress bust’. As a GP at Student health, I would recommend reading these whether you are currently stressed or not. Practising stress busting techniques as part of everyday living e.g. exercise and taking time out, will prepare you well if times become tough.
The main problems that I see with stressed students often involve the following:
1. Lack of sleep habit/ structure leading to exhaustion, making stress all the more worse. Sleep issues are all consuming. Self-help advice ( may be all that you need, or else please consider talking to the professionals at Student Counselling Service or SHS.
2. Forgoing meals due to lack of time to eat/ prepare food or nausea associated with stress. Eating little and often will provide the brain and body with the much needed ‘fuel’ and usually combat associated nausea.
3. Stress leading to a sense of work becoming overwhelming so that it is impossible to consider prioritising. provides a list of work-shops that might help students with study skills. Making a timetable of tasks can help a stressed individual establish clear goals. Please also remember that tutors will be able to help prioritise tasks if you are struggling.
4. More and more I am seeing how recreational drugs and too much alcohol are playing havoc with my patients’ mood and ability to tolerate stress. They also cause problems with sleep quality and are known to have a serious potential impact on mental health.
5. Not taking any breaks as there is too much work. Very few people can work all day and night and keep going. Regular breaks and natural stress busters such as a quick burst of physical activity and laughter can be a fantastic way to recharge your batteries.
Please consider looking at the National Stress Day resources and if you are concerned about your ability to manage your stress, remember that there are many people at the university who would be delighted to discuss this e.g. tutors, hall wardens, the SCS, the chaplain and Student Health Service.

Please see our website for links to related mental health resources and self-help material (; ;

Sports injury? What to do, when to do it and why it matters

For many of you, the summer break means relaxing and perhaps doing less sport. Now that you are back at Uni and doing familiar, and in some cases, new sports, your fitness and agility are being challenged. If that results in joint, muscle or ligament injury, it can mean not only pain and swelling, it might mean time away from the sport, and the socialising that goes with it. So what do you do when you’re injured? When and where should you seek help?

Here are the basics.
The first 24 hours after injury: PRICE principles
PRICE stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

These principles guide care of joint, muscle and ligament injury.
Protection: Stop the activity which caused injury. Immediately post injury you should avoid excessive and painful movement. Use support such as taping, bracing, splints or crutches as needed.
Rest/relative rest: Give the injury time to heal by taking load off it
Ice: use for at least 10 minutes (but no longer than 20 minutes). Time between icing should be guided by pain, but can be less than 2 hours between applications. Take care not to give yourself an ice burn.
Compression: If there is swelling, you can apply compression with a bandage or tubigrip. Don’t use high levels of compression with elevation unless advised to do so by a Doctor.
Elevation: in most cases, this can help. To elevate, you bring the injured body part above the level of the heart, e.g. resting with leg up and well supported if ankle is swollen. It is important to slowly lower the injured and elevated body part when bringing it back towards the ground.
Though perhaps tempting to dull pain with alcohol, it’s best avoided, as it slows recovery. It may lead you to use the injured area more than you should.
After the acute phase of injury (i.e. once the injury starts to subside), you need to progressively load the injured part. For example, after an ankle sprain where there is no fracture, it is important to gently start walking as normally as you can for short distances when you feel you are able and pain has subsided a little.
When to seek help
Seek help immediately if there is
• severe pain and/or deformity
• joint dislocation
• concussion/head injury
• bone fracture
• significant bleeding/skin and tissue trauma
• severe pins and needles, numbness unexplained muscle weakness
For these significant injuries, attend a nearby hospital Accident and Emergency department.
Seek help from a GP or Physio if there is
• Ongoing severe, persistent pain and swelling which is failing to respond to PRICE after 48 hours
• Ongoing swelling
• Loss of range of movement (e.g. can’t lift arm fully or take weight on foot and ankle) strength and joint stability
• If you are unable to continue to do normal activities and sport due to your injury
Physiotherapists help reduce pain and dysfunction through using manual techniques and exercises. The sooner you seek help, the better the health professionals can help you get back to your best. If you don’t follow through on treatment, injuries can become recurrent, meaning more time on the side lines and away from the great social and health benefits sport brings. It might impact your studies too.
If you are worried that you will be told to stop sport and exercise, be assured that your physio or GP can help you consider options to reduce impact on the injured area and maintain your fitness.
Old and recurrent injuries
If you have an old injury that’s recurrent, or an injury from overuse, that can be managed too. It’s normal to feel the occasional ache or pain after trying a new activity or returning to sport after a break, but symptoms that persist or recur are usually a sign that your body is not working at its best. Physios are experts in body mechanics, and can help you understand the cause of the pain and manage it. They work closely with Student Health to manage medical issues and investigations if required.
See here for more on Physiotherapy at University of Bristol



Getting appointments at SHS; easier than before!

Whats new?!


At Students’ Health Service we are constantly aiming to improve the service we provide. In response to patient feedback we have made some signficant changes to the options you will have for getting help from us.

Whenever possible the website should be your first point of contact. New for this term you will find here the ‘webGP’ icon. Here you can find useful advice including a symptom checker, self-help guides and details of ways to contact the practice, including sending your doctor an e-consult for many common problems.

In addition to our doctors we have an experienced team of nurses, many of whom are prescribers (can write prescriptions for medicines), and new for 2016 we are going to have a clinical pharmacist too. To help you to see the right person for your needs, there is a guide to booking your appointment on the SHS website.

Whilst you can of course still come in to the practice, or telephone reception, it will now also be possible to book appointments online too. You can ask for a PIN number to access this service once the NHS has processed your registration with us.

Overall we are offering more appointments than ever before!

Please try out webGP before you book your next appointment if possible!

Thank you


DNP; a toxic choice for slimming/ body building. Beware!

GPs have recently received notice from Public Health England advising us about patients using a chemical known as DNP (2,4-Dinitrophenol) to supposedly aid with loss of weight, or body building. There has been a sharp increase in the number of cases since 2013.

Use of this chemical, sold as ‘fat burners’ or food supplements, has led to fatal outcomes in several cases. Most of those affected are teenagers or young adults.

DNP is not a licensed drug. It is an industrial chemical and is illegal for use in foodstuffs. It is NOT fit for human consumption.

Use of the chemical can cause multiple horrible side effects, from fever and vomiting, to headaches and irregular heart rate. Even with medical intervention it can lead to coma and death.

Please do not touch this chemical and discourage your friends from using it if they mention it, or consider it.

We are happy to talk to anyone who is worried about their weight, or wants help with weight loss. We have special services to help with eating issues, and weight loss if you are overweight.

Don’t suffer in silence. Dont use this chemical, it could be a fatal choice.



World Mental Health Day 10th October 2015

Every year the WHO leads a day of awareness on mental health related topics, and the theme this year is ‘Dignity in Mental Health’.
The aim is to campaign against discrimination and marginalisation, as well as stigmatisation, and to educate people as to what can be done to preserve the dignity of those with mental health conditions.
Here at Students’ Health Service we are proud to have recently been awarded a grading of ‘Outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for our care of students with mental health conditions.
The whole team has worked really hard over the years to create a safe and welcoming environment for students who are struggling with emotional and psychological health conditions, and we have built up a solid network of services within the practice, which will support our students through their academic careers.
We provide a weekly visiting psychiatrist clinic, in-house Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (psychological support) for a variety of conditions, self hypnosis for anxiety, eating disorders referrals to a specialised local clinic, and we are soon to have our own team psychotherapist, to support our students with the most complex mental health needs.
We really believe that mental health is as important as physical health, and we will see a person with a mental health crisis for an appointment the same day, as we would see a person with chest pain, or difficulty breathing.
We work closely with the Student Counselling Service, and liaise with them, with patient consent, if it will help improve the student’s care.
We want our students to know that if they are worried about their mental health they can book an appointment to see a GP, and we will be non-judgmental, supportive and caring, will listen to their worries and discuss the situation, and we will do our best to help move things forwards, including liaising with academic departments, if requested by the student.
Don’t suffer in silence. Please talk to us.

The following links may also be of interst on World Mental Health day 2015.



Back Care awareness week 7-11 October 2015.

“The lack of physical activity is one of the top 4 leading causes of preventable death”. World Health Organisation statement.

So have you heard about the campaign to Get Britain Standing? And the ‘Active Working’ principles?
Nor had I till I read the Back Care info at
Active working is definitely a possibility for students! There are a few basic principles which I know some of the uni staff already practise, so why couldn’t you?!

Active Working Tips:
1. Keep moving around. Take frequent breaks
2. Take phone calls standing up, this also boosts confidence and voice quality
3. Try removing tables and chairs from meeting rooms. This leads to shorter meetings
4. Take the stairs instead of the elevator
5. Walk to a colleague’s desk, instead of emailing
6. Stand during presentations or speeches
Another popular move has been to have a sit-stand desk.
A height adjustable work station using it for between 15mins to 2 hours is seemingly a great way to stay fitter and keep those muscles working.
Apparently Winston Churchill did this, so you’d be following in some pretty impressive footsteps (or standing in them, at least!)
And you burn 40% more calories by standing at your desk.
Don’t forget that to prevent back problems in the first place you need to keep active, work your core muscles (yoga/ pilates), take care with lifting and carrying heavy items, and have a great posture when sitting eg in lectures/ in the library. Check out the link for exercises to help back health.

Finally, if you have severe back pain, with pain radiating down your leg, or from neck to arm, then please see the GP. We rarely x-ray backs anymore but we need to see you for assessment if you seem to be having nerve symptoms, like tingling/ numbness/ shooting pains or weakness of hand grip/ leg strength.
Physio clinics are a brilliant place to start for more mild to moderate back pain without nerve symptoms.

So, try Active Working, and keep your back healthy!

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