Is that winter sniffle a cold or a sinus infection?

How to tell the difference — and what to do about it.

Published: January, 2018

It's no fun coping with the stuffy, dripping head congestion of a winter bug. But how do you know if you're fighting a common cold or a sinus infection? "The symptoms can overlap, and it can be hard to tell the difference," says Dr. Ahmad Sedaghat, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist) with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

The common cold

More than 200 viruses can cause a common cold. The most common culprits — responsible for up to 40% of colds — come from a family of viruses called rhinoviruses.

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