There’s been an unwelcome guest staying at home of late, a clingy, needy unwanted visitor that’s been taking it in turns to suck the life out of each flatmate – the cold virus. In fact, if it stays any longer we’ll be charging it rent.

For the past few weeks the flatmates and I have been on the cold carousel – when one person musters enough strength to stagger off it another reluctantly finds themselves strapped in for a few days of misery. We’ve been on it so often lately that we’re all dizzy.

I knew trouble was brewing when the first dreaded telltale signs of looming doom appeared. For me, it’s itchy ears. Not itchy earlobes, because those would be too easy to scratch. Nope, the insides of my ears – too deep for a cotton bud to reach – go on a massive itchathon. It’s an itch that you can’t scratch and so it just drives you insane.

The second sign that the cold virus is lurking is more visible. I’d never profess to have an elegant neck like a swan, but when you look and feel like your neck belongs on another body – that of a stocky rugby player or British bulldog for instance – you pretty much know you’re in for it.

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Swollen glands? It looks more like I’ve got an ostrich egg stuck in my throat. Still, every cloud and all that… at least if someone wanted to throttle me that particular week they’d need hands big enough to wrap around a tree trunk.

When one flatmate gets struck down we all suffer. Not in some sisterhood solidarity share the pain kinda way but rather through sleep depravation. No matter how much medicine you swallow before bedtime the tickly cough or dog bark cough is sure to wake the whole house around 4am. By 4.45am it’s a miracle the coughing culprit hasn’t been smothered.

Of course, the flatmates and I are not the only ones afflicted. A single cold virus can have 16 million hardy little offspring within the course of a day and these little bruisers seem to be sweeping through Dubai right now, knocking every second person I know down with the force of a steamroller.

Thing is, we just feel so cheated (and not just of sleep). Sure, the temperature may have dipped. But dipped to perfect beach weather! And spending more money on cold remedies than on food in any given week hardly lifts the spirits. What’s on the dinner menu this week? Let’s see… cough medicine, throat sprays, Vicks Vaporub, Tiger Balm, paracetamol and a mountain of Strepsils to rival Mount Kilimanjaro.

More than 200 viruses are responsible for the cold, the most common of which are called human rhinoviruses, which is quite appropriate really when you feel like a rhino has indeed been pirouetting on your chest.

Did you know that by the time we hit 75, we’ll each have suffered from around 200 colds and spent around two years of our life coughing and sneezing? “Wonderful news!” exclaimed no one ever.

The ‘good’ news, however, is that you apparently catch less colds in old age. So by the time you’re riddled with arthritis, wrinklier than a Shar Pei and battling with cataracts, you’ll at least be sneeze- and snot-free. What a trade-off.

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