THE common cold has made a comeback after lying passive last winter while we were cocooned in lockdown or limited by Covid-19 restrictions.
GPs and pharmacists are reporting a rise in patients with sore throats and coughs.
Now we are mixing more and our immune systems may be more vulnerable to catching colds after being protected for so long.
But could it be Covid? How do you know you have the "not-Covid cold”?
The predictions are that more of us may have to take to the bed with a hot drink this winter as viral illness of the non-Covid kind strikes.
The latest figures here from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) show that in the week to October 10, GPs were getting patient consultations at a rate of 16.1 per 100,000, compared to 11.4 per 100,000 the previous week.
There is no evidence of flu yet but the common cold is being detected.
There are fears that winter viruses – separate to Covid-19 – have the potential to spread like wildfire in the coming months.
This is because of what is being described as "immunity debt".
Most of us would have been expected to be exposed to a cold virus in previous months, but we have less of those defences this winter.
Mask-wearing looks set to continue to be mandatory in shops and public transport and also strongly advised after next Friday.
That will mitigate some risk but we are now meeting up a lot more, so that will create new opportunities for catching a bug.
Pre-Covid-19, it was ingrained in us over the years to try to still turn up for work even if we are feeling under the weather. For those in insecure employment or the self-employed, taking time off still poses financial difficulties.
The instinct has also been to send a child to school who has mild cold symptoms.
Prof Philip Nolan of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) was adamant last week that leaving home with possible Covid-like symptoms should be seen in the same socially unacceptable light as drink driving.
Never before has fighting a cold – which could potentially be Covid-19 – taken on such loaded significance. There will be nothing straightforward about it this winter.
Fully vaccinated people with Covid-19 jabs have more protection from infection, but they can still get the Covid-19 virus and pass it on.
Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said if anyone has symptoms of Covid-19, including a high temperature, dry cough, or flu-like symptoms, they should get a test and stay at home.
"Do not go to work, school, college or socialise,” he said. “This applies even if you are fully vaccinated – please do not assume that because you are vaccinated you can’t get Covid-19."
The HSE advice in relation to children is if they just have a a runny nose or are sneezing, they can go to school. But if they are unwell or off form, they should stay at home.
However, there has been a surge in cases of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) in recent weeks in young children. Several have had to be hospitalised.
The three children's hospitals in Dublin have been seeing winter levels of respiratory illness in children since September. Around 65pc of children are infected with RSV by age one and this rises to 97pc when they are three.
Parents should look out for symptoms of severe infection in at-risk children, including fever with a high temperature of 37.8C or above, a dry and persistent cough, difficulty feeding, and rapid or noisy breathing.
Even if people stay at home with cold symptoms, the reality is that not everyone will seek a Covid-19 test. So are there any tell-tale signs?
According to data from the Zoe symptom tracking app, the main four symptoms for the Delta variant are headache, sore throat, runny nose and sneezing. Not very helpful if you are trying to self-diagnose.
One of the signals that it could be Covid-19 is rapid loss of taste or smell. This tends to happen early on.
Another sign might be a "strange sore throat that moves around”.
The HSE lists fever, including having chills, a dry cough or fatigue as possible symptoms of Covid-19. Less common symptoms are loss or change to smell and taste, a runny or blocked nose, or red eyes.
No cases of flu have been found here yet, but we are told to prepare for its arrival .It can have many similar symptoms to Covid-19 such as a high temperature, a cough and shortness of breath.
If unsure, ring your GP for advice.
The stage is certainly set for many weeks of confusion ahead. But with cases of Covid-19 rising and hospitals seeing a large increase in admissions, the mantra has to be ‘if in doubt, get a test’.
Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland