Staying healthy in Ireland - Advice for international students
When you're in a new country and concentrating hard on your studies, it can be easy to neglect your health. Challenges like a different climate, unfamiliar food and a shortage of free time can make it more difficulty to stay healthy.
How can I increase my chances of staying well?
A healthy diet combined with regular exercise and adequate rest will assist you in maintaining a feeling of well-being.
Taking exercise several times a week, like walking, cycling and sports, helps build strong bones and muscles and contributes to maintaining a healthy weight. These activities also reduce stress and help us feel better after hours spent sitting down in a classroom or library.
Getting a good night's sleep - at least 8 hours - is important to help renew the body and to maintain concentration in lectures and classes. Try and get into a regular routine that builds in enough time for sleep.
Eating the right food is vital to keeping warm and healthy. Be sure to eat regularly and avoid skipping meals.
The canteen or restaurant in your college may offer good value, but eating this way all the time can be costly and it will be difficult to keep a good diet without some cooking for yourself. Supermarkets (e.g. Lidl, Aldi, Tesco, Dunnes Stores and SuperQuinn) are the cheapest places to buy basic foodstuffs and most have a selection of international foods. There are also specialist shops in cities and large towns where you can buy African and Asian produce, spices, fruit and other vegetables that are not available in the main supermarkets. Health food shops offer a good range of beans, grains and dried fruit, although these can be expensive.
It is important to ensure that you have a balanced and varied diet to get all required nutrients. Typically, this will include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, plus carbohydrates (e.g. bread, rice, pasta), protein (e.g. meat, fish, eggs, beans, lentils) and some dairy produce (e.g. milk, cheese, yoghurt).
You should also drink water regularly - the body requires at least 8 cups of fluid per day. Ireland's public water supply undergoes rigorous testing to EU standards so tap water is safe to drink. Purchasing and carrying a water cannister (a reusable steel or plastic bottle) will eliminate the expense and waste of buying bottled water. Water is the healthiest choice for quenching your thirst at any time.
Extra care is needed when incorporating foods not found in your own country into your diet, especially processed and convenience foods which can be very high in fat, sugar and salt. Keep sweets, crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks to a minimum. When hungry between meals, consider options like fruit and yoghurt.
Good health is complemented by good hygiene practices. Food safety and hygiene have become very important issues in recent times. In addition to your regular kitchen hygiene routine, cleanliness in food preparation must also be considered, especially with perishable foods such as meat. The Department of Health and Children (DOHC) provides useful information on food safety in the home, for shopping and for eating out.
What medical care is provided on campus?
The major universities and institutes of technology have medical centres on campus, or arrangements with GPs based nearby. All registered students may use the health service provided by the institution, which offer generally free or subsidized consultations with a doctor and a nurse. You will have to pay for prescribed medicines.
Student health services can give you information about keeping healthy, deal with sports injuries and any illness or health problems you may have.
A Student Counsellor is also available if you need someone to talk to about any kind of problem you may have. Counsellors are trained to help people find ways of helping themselves and solving their problems, whether these are social, problems with personal relationships, financial problems, academic difficulties, or anything else.
What should I do if I become ill during my time as a student in Ireland?
If you are unable to see a doctor at your campus (see above), General Practitioners (GPs) are widely available in Ireland and their services can be obtained at most times of the day. They generally charge about EUR 60 for a consultation.
What if I need medication?
Chemists/ Pharmacies are generally open from 9 am - 6 pm Monday to Saturday, although some in busy districts have late night hours and are also open on Sundays. They stock a wide range of prescription and non-prescription medicines and the chemist can advise you on which is the most suitable for your complaint or whether or not you need to consult a doctor. In addition, most chemists sell first aid, skin care products, dental and toiletry items and non-prescriptive contraceptives.
What about accidents and emergencies?
For emergency medical care, such as a serious accident, DIAL 999 or 112 from any phone or go to the hospital accident and emergency department. If you visit the Accident and Emergency Section without a referral letter from your doctor, you will be charged EUR 100. If you have a letter of referral from your doctor there will be no charge.
The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform advises all non-EU/EEA nationals to apply for private health insurance before leaving their home country. » More
What about dental care and optical treatment?
Unless you are a medical card holder, you will have to pay for dental and optical treatment in Ireland.
For emergency dental treatment at the Dublin Dental Hospital, there is a minimum charge of EUR 66. The dental hospital is located at Lincoln Place, Dublin 2. Tel: (01) 612 7200
What about pregnancy and family planning information?
Where can I get more information on health services?
The Citizens Information website provides a range of health related guides.
Last updated: September 2012