The cold & flu season is hitting hard in the area and it appears many of us are suffering from other illnesses as well. “In recent weeks, we’ve been seeing an increase in flu but also other illnesses with symptoms such as sore throat, congestion, headache, cough and ear pain,” says Richard Samuel, MD, the medical director at Adventist HealthCare’s three urgent care centers in Rockville, Laurel and Germantown. Here’s some more information on non-flu illnesses that have been “going around” recently.

Upper respiratory infections are viruses that affect the nose, throat and airways. The common symptoms associated with an upper respiratory infection are:

  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Cough

Upper respiratory infections can last up to 10 days and are best treated with rest, fluids and over-the-counter medications. Dr. Samuel cautions that you shouldn’t take over-the-counter medications like nasal decongestants for more than 3 days. “If your symptoms don’t get any better after 4 days and you develop ear pain, fever, body aches, increased sore throat or headache, you should call your doctor or visit an urgent care center.” These may indicate you could have the flu or a worsening infection like sinusitis or bronchitis.

Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses that are found in your cheekbones, forehead, nose and eyes. If the sinuses can’t drain freely due to inflammation or a blockage, an infection can develop. Symptoms of a sinus infection include:

  • Facial pain or pressure
  • Pain when bending forward
  • Nasal congestion with thick yellowish or greenish mucus
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

“We recommend patients try over-the-counter medications like decongestants, nasal steroids, saline nasal washes and warm compresses to help relieve the pain and swelling of the sinuses,” states Dr. Samuel. “Sometimes, sinus infections will require treatment with antibiotics, so if it’s been a few days and the symptoms are not improving or getting worse, come into an urgent care center or call your doctor.”

Bronchitis is an infection of the lungs that causes a persistent cough and is often worse when lying down. Sometimes, a simple cold or an upper respiratory infection can turn into bronchitis. Other symptoms of bronchitis to watch for are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Low-grade fever
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue

The best remedies for bronchitis are drinking plenty of water, rest and over-the-counter medications to help loosen and thin chest congestion. Dr. Samuel advises, “If your cough lasts longer than one week, go see your doctor or urgent care. There are other medications we can prescribe to help and sometimes bronchitis can turn into a more serious condition like pneumonia that we’ll want to look for.”

Learn more about how to fight the flu. Dr. Samuel says that no matter what illness you have, “make sure you get plenty of rest, lots of fluids, wash your hands often and stay at home so you don’t get others sick.”


Adventist HealthCare Urgent Care is open daily from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Walk in or make an online no wait reservation.