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Is it a cold, a super cold or Covid? And should I carry on regardless? | Zoe Williams

The lurgy rules used to be clear. But now, if you want to go anywhere with a runny nose, you have to get your excuses in early

It was nearly midnight on Friday, and I was sitting in a TV studio with some balled-up tissue in one hand and a pack of chewing gum in the other, like a kid who had been asked by a police officer to turn out their pockets, and then unaccountably wandered into a current affairs programme. This is 100% true: I did not feel ill when I left the house. My best guess for why I was streaming with snot and my eyeballs were on fire was that I was allergic to the pine-scented car-freshener in the Uber. “This is bound to pass,” I thought, as I waited for the camera to move somewhere else so I could blow my nose again. It did not pass, and all was not well, and by “all”, I mean “me”.

The rules of illness changed after Covid: previously there was an expectation that you would take your rhinovirus all round town until you dropped dead, and if you happened to give it to anyone, they would appreciate you even more, because now they would know how rubbish you felt. While the pandemic delivered nothing of the large-scale social revolution many of us hoped for at the start, it did at least ram home this trace of wisdom: maybe just stay in bed if you are not well?

Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist

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