IF you say you’ve got flu, you’ve got a cold, and if you think you’re dying, you’ve got flu.

My husband comes out with this whenever I claim to have flu. I should use the term ‘flu-like symptoms’, the one that appears on packs of cold remedies.

Because flu is, of course, far more serious and can be fatal.

I don’t think I was at risk of dying when I fell victim to the common cold, unfortunately during a week’s holiday. It often happens. Once you relax, your immune system loosens up and you fall victim to all sorts of ailments.

Although ‘common’ colds cannot be dismissed lightly, this was my first for a long time and I’d forgotten how terrible they can make you feel.

When I felt it creeping up on me – a slight fever, dry throat and achey limbs – I attempted to stave it off with all manner of medication, including a traditional herbal remedy which has languished in the bathroom for the past few years.

Surprisingly, this made me feel marginally better, although glancing at the ingredients I noticed that it contained 12per cent alcohol, so it probably just numbed the symptoms.

I bought loathsome fruit juices that I would normally only drink under torture, and overpriced pro-biotic substances in tiny, two-gulp bottles. I had hot baths and went to bed early. But it was to no avail. Because, as anyone who has a cold will testify, only time will rid you of the beast.

Despite website advice claiming to get rid of a cold in a day, it takes a week before you start to feel normal again. People with colds feel the need to tell everyone about it. Either they want others to feel sorry for them, or they don’t want to risk passing on their illness.

“I’ve got a cold,” I moaned last week, in an effort to explain the crimson nose, bleary eyes, and clumps of mangled tissues protruding from my sleeve. Food tastes bland, and even a comforting cup of tea loses its appeal amid the nasal stuffiness and congestion.

With hundreds of strains of the virus that produce colds, once one is over, how do you prevent the onset of another?

I’m becoming paranoid and sat on the bus last night looking like a bandit, my scarf pulled over my nose.

I move seats if I hear so much as a sniffle from a nearby passenger.

But it’s all damage limitation – most cold viruses can survive for hours on doorknobs and other surfaces, so short of wearing anti-radiation suits there’s little any of us can do.