(WALL STREET JOURNAL) — About a month ago Sharon Gilbert was hit with a runny nose, sore throat and a cough. The whole snotty works.

A few weeks later she thought she had recovered. Then her husband Derek got sick, and bam. “Suddenly I started getting all the symptoms [again] and it was worse,” said Ms. Gilbert, a 61-year-old writer in Charleston, Ill.

In the winter that seems to have no end in many parts of the country, people like Ms. Gilbert have been plagued with the seemingly everlasting cold.

That’s partly because the common cold can last longer than many people think—up to two weeks for the principal symptoms and perhaps weeks more for a cough that lingers even after the virus has been cleared away. There’s also the possibility of secondary infections such as bacterial sinusitis.

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