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Student wellbeing


Very occasionally, you or a fellow student may become seriously ill and you will need specialist help. The links below will help you identify symptoms and seek help for certain illnesses that might affect you or a friend.  If you have any doubts as to whether you or another student have these symptoms, please contact your College nurse or dial 111 for advice and guidance (dial 999 in an emergency). Both of these numbers operate for 24 hours a day throughout the year and are free.


Meningococcal meningitis is a potentially fatal infectious disease.  Most UK students arriving at the University will have been vaccinated against group C meningococcal infection. Since the introduction of the MenC immunization programme in 1999, the incidence of group C infection has declined markedly. However, sporadic cases of meningococcal meningitis due to groups such as MenB, MenW and MenY can still arise. The MenACWY conjugate vaccine has now replaced the Men C vaccine. This vaccine is available to all new entrants to UK University institutions and new students should ensure they are vaccinated prior to arriving at Cambridge. It also remains important for all students to be aware of the symptoms and to take prompt action if necessary.

See also Vaccinations.

Find out more information about the MenACWY vaccination  

Find out more information about the signs and symptoms of Meningitis 

Find a meningitis and septicaemia symptom checker.

View the University's Meningitis Guidelines for staff

Anaphylaxis (a serious allergic reaction)

An increasing number of people are vulnerable to severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) which can affect the entire body within a few minutes of exposure to an allergen and can lead to death if not treated promptly. There are several causes of anaphylaxis of which food is the most common (others include bee and wasp stings, drugs and latex). Nuts and nut products are the commonest food cause of an anaphylactic reaction. Other trigger foods include dairy products, eggs, shellfish, fish, soya, pulses and sesame seeds. The general principles apply to all cases of anaphylaxis.

The symptoms can vary in severity and may include some of the following: itchy skin, swelling of lips, tongue and face, difficulty in breathing, stomach ache, vomiting, runny nose, swelling of the throat resulting in difficulty in swallowing, dizziness and/or loss of consciousness.

There is no vaccine against food-induced allergic reactions; the only preventative measure is avoidance. The most effective treatment for anaphylaxis is adrenaline (epinephrine) which needs to be given as an injection. Most deaths occur because adrenaline is not administered or is administered too late.

If you have a severe, life threatening allergy with a known risk of anaphylaxis and already carry an adrenaline auto-injector (AAI), for example, an EpiPen, Jext, Emerade or Anapen, you will have an opportunity to flag this on your College new student health questionnaire and you will be contacted by your College as soon as is possible to ensure that your records are updated and the relevant safety measures can be put in place.  If you haven’t heard from your College regarding your allergy/ies, please ensure you contact your College Nurse (or Tutor/Senior Tutor if your College doesn’t have a nurse) within 48 hours of your arrival at Cambridge.  With your consent, information about your allergy will be shared with key members of staff, including the Catering Manager at your College, your Departmental Administrator, First Aiders within your College and Faculty/Department, Senior Tutor, Head Porter and Lab Technicians.

If you are unsure about your allergy status, please contact your GP (family doctor) to discuss this as soon as possible.

The University guidance on Anaphylaxis encourages you to:

  • Take responsibility for managing your allergy: you should know what to avoid and what constitutes a reasonable level of risk.
  • Meet with the appropriate members of staff to discuss your needs: for example, catering staff (including the Catering Manager), Practical Demonstrator.
  • Carry two AAI devices, if possible and any other appropriate medication and a medical alert or something similar at all times.
  • Let your friends know about your allergy and, if you are willing, show them how to use your AAI.

In an emergency:

Find out more information about anaphylaxis here:   

Read the full guidance document for staff.

See also - alcohol poisoning.