Common illnesses

Contact the Student Health Services for details on how to manage any of the following common illnesses:

  • Colds, coughs and flu
  • Cystitis
  • Injuries
  • Sore Throat

Colds, coughs and flu

Colds and influenza are infectious illnesses caused by viruses. There are many types and they vary from year to year. Most are transmitted from person to person through nasal and respiratory secretions. They spread when you touch something contaminated and then rub your eyes or nose. Getting chilled, wet or cold has nothing to do with catching a cold. The resistance of individuals to these viruses depends mainly on good general health. This in turn relies upon nourishing foods, adequate rest and recreation, the absence of severe or prolonged stress and daily physical exercise. A deficiency, or imbalance, in any of these areas can weaken health as a whole, and you become prone to minor illnesses. General signs and symptoms are a running or blocked nose, sneezing, chills, watery eyes, feeling lethargic and miserable.

Contact Student Health Services about the University of Westminster’s immunisation programme.

Read the NHS information about flu vaccinations.


Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder which can be due to several causes. These include bacterial or non-bacterial infection, allergies, friction of the urethra (water passage), irritation, infection from a vaginal discharge (eg thrush), anxiety, stress or depression or an ‘irritable bladder’ (a particularly sensitive bladder). It is most common in women.

How do you recognise it?

You may be suffering from cystitis if you have:

  • a burning or scalding pain in the water passage (urethra) when you pass water.
  • a frequent and often urgent need to pass water and, although you may be bursting to go, there may be very little water to pass.
  • darker or stronger looking and smelling urine than normal. It may also look cloudy and even contain traces of blood.
  • a dull ache or pain in the lower abdomen or low back pain.
  • (an occasional symptom:) a fever (feel shivery, hot and cold).


Injuries, whether through sports, leisure activities or a road accident, greatly affect the quality of student life. The body will often heal itself without treatment, but there are some simple first aid measures that can relieve pain and encourage the body back to full functional fitness in the shortest, safest possible time.

Sore Throat

A sore throat is a common complaint. It is most usually caused by a viral infection, but occasionally by a bacteria called streptococcus, so called 'strep throat'.

Most sore throats, whatever the cause, get better without treatment in an average of a week. There are many self-help remedies that can be bought over the counter in a pharmacy that will relieve discomfort while the body is fighting off the infection. These remedies can be used to relieve a sore throat, and to give a general boost to the body's immune system.

In the past, penicillin-type antibiotics were prescribed to treat streptococcal sore throat. This was because a streptococcal infection sometimes advanced to infect the kidneys and cause lifelong kidney damage. For reasons that are unclear, this process doesn't appear to happen anymore. Since overuse of antibiotics in 'minor' infections has led to some bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotic treatment, antibiotics are not usually prescribed for the treatment of sore throat. This opinion is held more strongly in the UK than some other countries, notably North America.

A more serious sore throat such as quinsy (an abcess around the tonsil) may need antibiotic treatment.

scissors over first aid kit


Learn how to deal with emergency situations.

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