snowy northwest roadWinter’s rapidly approaching, and along with its frigid temperatures, it’s bringing many aggravating illnesses with it. Whether it’s on the bus, train or at your workplace, you’ve probably noticed more and more people around you are sniffling and coughing. While there are still a couple months left of fall, the number of flu, strep throat, pneumonia, bronchitis and common cold cases are quickly increasing.

These illnesses all have very similar symptoms, yet they differ greatly in their potential severity. This makes it necessary to distinguish these illnesses.

The Common Cold

The common cold is a viral infection that can be caused by a countless number of viruses. While its symptoms are very similar to the flu, the common cold is largely innocuous and its symptoms will go away after just a few days. However, unlike the flu, the common cold doesn’t have a vaccine.

Cold symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent coughing


Like the common cold, influenza is a viral infection that originates from three distinct viral strands. Despite the flu shot’s efficacy, many still opt not to get a flu shot. The flu shot contributes to thousands of deaths each year in the United States, as the infection can be particularly dangerous for people with compromised immune systems.

Flu symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Long-lasting headache
  • Nausea/Vomiting (most common in children)
  • Muscle soreness
  • Fever

Approximately 5-20% of the population contracts the flu each year, making it one of the most common illnesses. Don’t be a part of this statistic; get your flu shot at AFC Doctors Express Urgent Care Southcenter today!

Strep Throat

Unlike the flu and common cold, strep throat is a bacterial infection. Because it causes a sore throat, many misdiagnose strep throat as a simple common cold or flu. However, since most people infected with strep are children, it’s important to receive prompt care for strep – especially considering its potential to produce a number of undesirable side effects, such as Acute Rheumatic Fever. Strep is caused by the “streptococcal” bacteria, which inflames the membranes around the tonsils and throat.

Additional strep throat symptoms include:

  • Sore throat
  • Swollen tonsils & lymph nodes
  • Fever


Bronchitis can be classified into two different categories, which are distinguished by their seriousness: acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis. Acute bronchitis is relatively harmless, as it is caused by a minor inflammation inside the bronchial tubes. It can be caused by the flu virus or common cold, and its symptoms will dissipate after just a few days.

Chronic bronchitis, however, is a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that is long lasting and extremely problematic in the long term.

Bronchitis symptoms are:

  • Loud, guttural coughing
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Fever
  • Produces discolored mucus (called “sputum”)
  • Non-life-threatening chest pain


Pneumonia is an inflammation inside the lungs that can be potentially life-threatening for certain people. Because it can be caused by both viral and bacterial infections, it’s treated differently depending on the root cause. Bacterial infections, while more serious, can easily be treated using antibacterials. Viral pneumonia infections are less serious, yet are treated using the not-as-effective cough medicine and pain relievers.

People threatened most by pneumonia infections include people with autoimmune diseases, COPD, weak immune systems, young children and people with heart disease. Pneumonia cases are most frequent during the winter, as the flu occasionally causes pneumonia.

Pneumonia symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Sputum-producing cough
  • The ‘chills’
  • Difficulty breathing

If you believe you may have contracted any of these illnesses, visit us at our convenient location in Kent, WA. Just a few minutes away from the SeaTac airport, we treat all of the above illnesses all on a walk-in basis, 7 days a week. For more information, call us at 425.291.3300 or visit us today!