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Help! I’m a hacking, coughing mess.


Hack, hack, hack. That coughing isn’t just beginning to irritate you, it’s beginning to annoy everyone around you. Of course, a cough here and there is pretty common, but there are times when your body is trying to tell you something. Think of the cough as an important instant message from your chest.

Acute or chronic?

Believe it or not, a forceful cough can push air out of your lungs at a velocity of nearly 500 mph. Try keeping that air in, and that prolonged, vigorous bout of coughing can disrupt your sleep, cause a headache, make you wet your pants, or even break a rib. On the other hand, the slightest tickle of a cough can also be a symptom of something bigger.

An acute cough – the sort that tends to show up with an infection – usually lasts as long as a few weeks. A chronic cough runs eight weeks or more in adults (four weeks or more in kids).

Common cough causes – Acute

The most common reason for an acute cough is an infection. Viral infections, like the common cold or influenza, top the list. You can usually tell when these show up, as they’re accompanied by other symptoms like fever, a runny nose and feelings of just plain lousiness.

It’s hard to miss the other infection-related cause of an acute cough: Whooping cough got its name for a pretty obvious reason. Brought on by a bacterial infection, it tends to attack kids who haven’t been immunized and adults who lost their immunities.

Irritants in the air and a strained abdominal muscle are the other common reasons for an acute cough.

Common cough causes – Chronic

Allergies, asthma and chronic bronchitis are the top reasons for a chronic cough. Gastrointestinal reflux disease often co-exists with asthma, but it can also cause coughs all on its own. Post-nasal drip, which frequently goes hand-in-hand with allergies but can also occur on its own, is the final culprit in the top five. Lots of other ailments can cause chronic cough: emphysema, heart failure, croup (in young children especially), sinusitis, cystic fibrosis, medication side effects, lung cancer and tuberculosis.

So, do you need a doc? Yes, if you’re having difficulty swallowing or breathing or have pink-tinged sputum – and you also need immediate care. Yes, if you have an acute cough along with a fever, wheezing, thick yellow-green sputum or you’re short of breath. Yes, if you have a chronic cough that just hangs on for no obvious reason.

If you have a cough, come see us at Innovative Express Care in Lincoln Park.

Sore Throat = No Fun

sore throat

So you screamed your head off at the Taylor Swift concert last night and now you can’t shake it off. Or maybe you should have thought twice about sitting next to that guy with the hacking cough on the train, but your feet were killing you and it was the only available seat. Or perhaps your date was wrong when he assured you it was just allergies and he was totally down for some Netflix and chill.

Whatever the cause, your throat feels like you swallowed a can of nails and you want some relief. When you want to get back to feeling your best, there are a few things to remember. While there are several remedies to soothe your sore throat until a physician can see you, there are a few different things to consider.

What is causing your sore throat?

Sore throats can have a variety of causes. Most commonly, sore throats are a symptom of the common cold. The common cold is a virus, which means there are no medical treatments to cure it. So suck it up, buttercup—rest, hot tea and throat lozenges may be the only things that bring relief. But sore throats are also caused by bacterial infections, the most notorious being strep throat, named for streptococcus bacteria. Strep throat is often more severe than a sore throat and can also cause an inflammation of the tonsils—also known as tonsillitis. Not good times.

Medical tests and treatments

Physicians will likely do a quick swab of your throat to test for a wide array of bacterial and viral infections. Swab results are usually returned in as little as 10 minutes in urgent care offices. Physicians and medical practitioners may prescribe antibiotics for any sore throats caused by bacterial infections.

Over-the-counter oral analgesics (which is just a fancy word for cough drops) may be recommended, such as Cepacol lozenges, Chloraseptic sprays, oral pain medications and menthol lozenges.


Do: Eat foods that are soft, semisolid, and coat your throat. Applesauce, soups and popsicles are good. While gravy fits the bill, it might be a little weird to carry around a gravy boat and slurp from it all day. Yogurt would be a much better choice as it is filled with probiotics to give your digestive system a boost.

Don’t: Avoid coarse foods and foods with a high acid base, spicy or sour flavoring, or foods consumed at high temperatures. And lay off the margaritas while you’re sick. Sure, the icy goodness might seem like the perfect antidote to a throat coated with broken glass, but the tequila won’t do a body good.


Do: Keep well hydrated. Since your body is made up of nearly 70 percent water, it is essential to stay hydrated in order to be in great health.

Don’t: Do not consume alcohol. No, not even a hot toddy. Alcohol burns a healthy throat; imagine what it will do to your sore throat.


Do: Hand washing and sanitizing help kill the germs and keep you from infecting all of your unsuspecting friends and family.
 Germs: the gifts that keep on giving.

Don’t: Don’t share food or drink with another person. And put your make-out sessions on hold until you’re absolutely sure you’re not contagious.

Additional tips:

Make an appointment or visit an urgent care center to rule out any serious bacterial or viral infections. Some clinics (like Innovative Express Care) do offer telemedicine, so you may not need to leave the comfort of your home.

Gargle with warm salt water to help soothe the pain while also providing gentle cleaning to get rid of those disgusting germs.

Rest your throat by whispering and speaking in softer tones. If you are a parent, this may be impossible.

Utilize a humidifier to keep the air moist and prevent yourself from coughing up a storm. But check the filter on that thing—breathing in black mold is worse than any cold you may have.

If your sore throat is accompanied by fever, rash, nausea, vomiting or headaches, seek medical treatment. Do not attempt to self-treat your sore throat if it is accompanied by additional symptoms.

Although a sore throat can be extremely uncomfortable, you need not suffer through it like your seventh-grade sex ed class. With a wide variety of both medical treatments and natural remedies to soothe discomfort, you can be feeling better in no time. At Innovative Express Care, we pride ourselves in our high-tech, convenient, affordable and discreet health care with little to no wait.

Image Source: Yortw

What do you need to know about norovirus?

norovirusNo, contrary to commonly-held beliefs, norovirus is not some computer thing that Russian hackers used to compromise the 2016 election. It’s the actual medical term for what’s usually called the stomach flu by many people. You know, the illness that is highly contagious, easily spread and especially dangerous to young people and older adults.

What is it?

Norovirus causes swelling in your stomach and the lining of your large intestine. It is the primary cause of gastroenteritis, an intestinal infection that often results in severe cramps, vomiting and fever. (If you’re looking for a band name, “Severe Cramps Vomiting and Fever” is about as good as it gets. Feel free to steal it.)

If you’ve ever had food poisoning (and who hasn’t?), chances are that it was caused by norovirus, as it is easily spread through the contamination of food.

How does it spread?

Most people contract norovirus while consuming food that contains the virus, such as undercooked shellfish or undercooked meat, or even raw fruits and vegetables. Basically every all-you-can-eat buffet you’ve ever encountered is a roll of the dice. But the virus can also spread if you touch a surface such as a picnic table that has the virus, and then touch your nose or mouth. We dare you to not think about that the next time you’re jockeying for an outdoor table at your favorite bar.

Norovirus is a persistent virus, which means it can survive high heat, and remains “live” on surfaces for several days. It’s like the cockroach of the viruses. And once you have the virus, it is very contagious and spreads by activities such as skin-to-skin contact or through sharing food and cutlery. In short, we should all live in bubbles, our bodies coated in hand-sanitizer, never coming in contact with another human.

What are some common symptoms

Norovirus symptoms often appear within two days of exposure, and they are ridiculously unpleasant—diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and severe stomach cramps. You may also develop a fever and experience headaches and body aches, similar to how you feel when you have the flu.

How is it treated?

You’ll probably hate this, but there is no magic pill you can take to get rid of norovirus, because it is not a bacterial infection—antibiotics are useless against it. Our norovirus treatment plan is for you to drink a ton of liquid. Why? Because those nasty symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting rob your body of water and can quickly lead to dehydration.

So the treatment is simple: plenty of fluids and rest and pretty much toughing it out unless the dehydration gets severe, in which case you should call us right away.


The best prevention against norovirus is hygiene, so:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before you eat, prepare food and after using the bathroom.
  • Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before you eat them.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before you eat, prepare food and after using the bathroom.
  • Cook shellfish properly using a thermometer.
  • Did we mention washing your hands with soap and water before you eat, prepare food and after using the bathroom?

Innovative Express Care all about getting you well when you are not 100 percent, and we offer urgent care and primary care with almost no wait times. We are fast, friendly and affordable and you can even book your appointment online!

Image Source: James Palinsad

What To Do When You Come Down With A Stomach Flu


stomach fluComing down with a stomach bug is about as fun as listening to your crazy cousin who you only see once a year on holidays rant about conspiracy theories and politics: it’s painful, uncomfortable and embarrassing and the situation presents itself with little warning, lasting anywhere from a few hours to several days. Commonly referred to as the “stomach flu,” this illness is actually a condition called gastroenteritis. Here at Innovative Express Care we see cases of it year round, but more often in the winter months. About 80 percent of people come down with the stomach bug between November and April.

What causes the stomach flu?

Gastroenteritis is usually caused by a virus in the stomach or intestines, but bacteria is sometimes the culprit. That leftover tuna that smelled a little off? Yep, should have tossed it. No matter if it’s bacterial or viral, the signs of a stomach bug are the same: nausea, abdominal pain and cramps, vomiting, loss of appetite and diarrhea. Other symptoms you might have are chills, sweats, fever or muscle pain. The first few days are usually the worst and then the symptoms tend to taper off. The enforced weight loss is a total bonus.

What should you do if you think you have the stomach flu?

Stomach flu symptoms usually appear 12 to 48 hours after coming into contact with the virus or bacteria. Most cases of gastroenteritis infections will clear up on their own. In the meantime it is important to:

  • Stay hydrated— try sipping water or broth slowly, or sucking on ice chips.
  • Avoid acidic drinks and caffeine.
  • Add bland food gradually as the body tolerates it.
  • Get lots of rest.
  • Stock up on pre-moistened wipes and reading material for the bathroom—you’ll be spending some quality time in there.

If vomiting and diarrhea continue more than a few days, or if you have bloody stools or symptoms of dehydration, it’s important to seek medical advice. Sometimes gastroenteritis can lead to other complications or is symptomatic of another underlying medical condition. Our urgent care doctors at Innovative Express Care will offer you sound medical advice and answer any questions or concerns… We have IV fluids here, take insurance, and we have a very affordable IV fluid self-pay rate!

Preventing gastroenteritis

A few simple things can help to lessen your chances of getting bitten by the stomach bug. We recommend our patients:

  • Wash hands frequently throughout the day.
  • Don’t share drinks or eating utensils with others.
  • Any plans to Netflix and Chill with sick “friends” should be postponed.
  • Be careful drinking water when traveling to other countries—only drink bottled water or other sealed liquids (skip the ice cubes, too).
  • If someone in your house is sick, be sure to disinfect surfaces, use separate towels and limit contact until they feel better. You may want to consider selling your house to get away from the germs, although that may seem drastic to some. Let the next people deal with it.

We offer both high-quality urgent care and primary care services with short waits for appointments. You won’t be sitting for hours in an office waiting room at our clinic—unless you need the free wifi and like relaxing in front of our big-screen TV. Our doctors communicate with patients through telemedicine, scheduled appointments or walk-in visits. We offer IV fluids, nausea medications, and antibiotics if we feel it was something you ate. We are discreet, affordable and convenient—you can even book your appointment online! Let us help get you on the path to recovery.

Image Source: James Palinsad

When is a Sore Throat, Strep Throat?


Sore Strep ThroatYour throat feels like you swallowed a can of nails and chased it with a side of rubbing alcohol. It’s time to play the “Strep Throat or Just A Virus” game once again! In many cases, a sore throat is a symptom of a run-of-the-mill cold, but sometimes it can be caused by another viral or bacterial infection. Innovative Express Care will treat your sore throat no matter what the cause might be.

How do sore throats caused by colds differ from those caused by strep?

The two share some common symptoms, such as a sore throat and often a fever. Do you have a sore throat accompanied by a runny nose, sneezing, coughing or head and body aches? Congratulations, you likely have a run-of-the-mill cold, which is caused by a virus. Thank the guy in the middle seat on the airplane for not only encroaching on your armrest, but for sneezing directly into your face. Dude, cover your mouth! But strep is a different animal, caused by the Streptococcus bacteria and is an actual infection. You’ll not only want to die every time you swallow, but you may have a decreased appetite and disgusting white spots inside your throat. Reverse the camera on your phone and prepare to be horrified.

Should I see a doctor if I think I have strep throat?

The only way to confirm that you have strep throat is to do a rapid strep test. And no, there’s not an app for that. Making an accurate diagnosis is important to ensure that the prescribed treatment is appropriate. Antibiotics are an effective treatment for strep because they attack the bacteria that causes it. However, antibiotics are not effective against viruses, including those that cause the common cold. We do not prescribe these medications to cold sufferers, no matter how much you beg. You just have to tough it out and grab some tissues. A lot of tissues.

How do I treat my cold? My strep infection?

No medicine can cure a cold, so treatments are aimed at alleviating symptoms. Fever reducers, pain relievers and throat lozenges will help you feel better while your body fights off the virus. So will chicken soup, chocolate pudding and calling in sick so you can binge-watch some Netflix.

As a bacterial infection, strep throat can be more dangerous than a common cold. It can cause other illnesses like rheumatic fever, which can attack the heart valves. Our clinic can provide a diagnosis and prescribe treatment for a strep infection as soon as possible after your first symptoms appear.

You should start feeling better within a day or two of starting your antibiotic medication and be fully cured within ten days. How long you milk this with your boss is your business, but he may not believe your claims that the doctor ordered 30 days of bed rest in a warm climate. Be sure to tell us if you have a sensitivity to common antibiotics like penicillin or amoxicillin. If you continue to suffer symptoms after starting treatment or start experiencing new symptoms like nausea, skin rashes or swollen glands, don’t stop taking your medicine, but come see us immediately. Nobody has time for hideous rashes.

At Innovative Express Care, we want you to feel well all the time. If you feel a sore throat coming on and want to be sure it is not strep throat, our urgent care clinic is available to help.

Image Source: Robert Couse-Baker

A Sinus Infection: Something Your Doctor Can Treat


Sneezing WomanSinus Infections, aka sinusitis, can be a real drag on your life. Seriously, the pain in your face, congestion in your head, that nagging cough, and headaches can really wreak havoc on your life. Let me tell you ways you can figure out if it’s just a cold/allergies or an acute sinus infection that can be treated with antibiotics.

Face Pain and Headaches

Often, you will have face pain in the maxillary sinuses (just below your eyes) or the ethmoid sinuses (in-between your eyes just behind your nose), and frontal sinuses (just above your nose, near your lower forehead). This face pain can increase when you go from lying to standing (the moving of the mucous can cause intense pain). These can trigger intense, nagging headaches.

Thick Discharge from Your Nose – aka Snot

Yep, that thick yellow and green stuff coming from your nose, often draining down your throat causing you to cough it up, is also known as snot. It’s a sign of your sinuses are discharging pus and it causes some gross stuff to go through your nose and down your throat.

Prior Viral Infection and Congestion

Here’s where doctors have a hard time with sinus infections. The first thing that happens prior to getting a sinus infection is a cold. This cold causes increase mucous. The problem is, this snot gets thick and clogs up the small passageways of your sinuses. When these narrow passageways get clogged up, they sits still, which then gets infected (when our body fluid sits still, it gets infected – see what happens when urine sits still), and the headaches, face pain, and fever can become intense.

Double Dip or Double Worsening Sign

This is a trick of the Ear Nose Throat Doctors. They have found that many of their patients with sinus infections get a prior viral infection (aka a cold) and after 7-10 days get significantly better. Then wham! They get face pain, increased green and yellow nasal discharge, and fever. When I hear this story of getting better then worse, it’s always a sinus infection.


There’s been a lot of science about the treatment of sinus infections. If a patient truly has a sinus infection, then antibiotics do work. Many doctors worry about the over prescribing of antibiotics. This certainly can happen. We do not want to treat colds with antibiotics because they don’t work and we do increase resistance by doing this. However, if you have face pain, fever, and snotty drainage from your nose, then there’s a good chance that an antibiotic will help get rid of it. Talk to your doctor!

Steroid sprays also help decrease the inflammation of the sinuses. Lastly, nasal rinses, such as the Neti Pot, can really help keep the sinus drainage openings intact. Even the Ear, Nose, Throat doctors encourage Neti Pot rinses for those with chronic sinus infections.

Here at Innovative Express Care, we actually have the antibiotics to purchase right here at our clinic! Amoxicillin, Augmentin, Levofloxacin, Z-packs, and Clindamycin are all sold for $15 each. We even have nasal steroid sprays to help with the sinus inflammation.

Click here to book an appointment now! You have no reason to suffer from your sinus infections anymore!


Image Source: Tina Franklin


Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): Treatment and Advice



You know what’s terrible? Getting a UTI. That burning, uncomfortable feeling you get when it starts will continue until that bacteria is eliminated. There are many ways to get rid of that UTI, but the fastest, most reliable way, is to get on the right antibiotics.

What Causes UTIs in Women?

First off, UTIs occur in women 10 times more than in men. Why? The distance between the bladder and the outside world is much shorter for women than men, which means bacteria do not have to travel far to infect the bladder.

What Are the Signs of a UTI?

Basically, a UTI, aka bladder infection or cystitis, is the infection of the bladder. Bacteria irritate the urethra and bladder, which causes:

  • Burning on urination
  • Frequency of urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pressure in your bladder
  • Cloudy urine

What is the Best Medical Treatment for UTIs

Although there are many ways to treat a UTI, the quickest, most efficient treatment is an antibiotic. Why? Well, a UTI is an infection of the bladder wall. The bacteria start to grow on the bladder wall which is a paper-thin structure that is almost transparent. You can see the small blood vessels that run through the bladder if you shine a flashlight on it. The bacteria start eating the mucosal membrane of the bladder wall and when it does this, those small blood vessels start to bleed (this is why many people get blood in their urine). As the bacteria hang out in the bladder, they multiply. Antibiotics taken by mouth get into the bloodstream and start killing the bacteria immediately. Within 4 hours, you should be feeling better!

What Happens if the UTI Does Not Get Treated Appropriately?

The UTI can spread to the kidneys, which is called, Pyelonephritis. This is a big deal because this often causes:

  • Fever
  • Flank Pain
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Shaking and Chills

It’s really important to see a physician if you get any of these symptoms with a UTI. The biggest issue is that once you have nausea and vomiting, you cannot keep down the antibiotics, so you cannot kill the bacteria. This is why we often place IVs into patients to give them IV antibiotics and fluids for hydration.

What Advice Do You Have to Stop a UTI?

If you are reading this right now, the best advice I can give you is to make an appointment right now. You need a simple urine test and the appropriate antibiotics. Drinking more water or cranberry juice will only prolong your misery. Although, I do not disagree with this methodology, I can tell you that a simple antibiotic can get you feeling better within a few hours. So why suffer? Click here to book an appointment, and see a provider within 20 minutes!

Image Source: Bradley Gordon

Zika Virus: What You Need to Know

If you’ve seen the news lately, you’ve no doubt heard about the Zika virus. But what is this illness that has prompted the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to advise pregnant women to delay their travel to nearly two-dozen countries? As travel medicine experts, our staff stays apprised of virus activity in foreign countries so we may counsel our patients on travel warnings, provide immunizations and offer prescriptions when needed.

Five facts to know about Zika:

  1. Zika is a virus spread through mosquito bites that can cause rash, fever, pink eye and joint pain.
  2. About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika will get sick. Symptoms related to the virus are typically mild and clear up within a week.
  3. Zika may be dangerous to pregnant women and their babies. Preliminary evidence suggests that the virus may cause microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with unusually small heads.
  4. Zika outbreaks are occurring in many countries currently, prompting the CDC to recommend that women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant postpone travel to areas where Zika is active.
  5. Most importantly, don’t panic. Zika has not yet been identified in mosquitos in the continental United States. Cases reported in the United States were linked to foreign travel. For the most up to date information about Zika, visit the CDC website.

Zika is just one of many viruses you could encounter when traveling abroad. That’s why the best rule of thumb is this – before you head off on an adventure to somewhere exotic, check with a travel medicine expert. We’ll notify you of any health warnings in the area where you’ll be traveling, counsel you on how to avoid illness, and provide vaccinations and malaria prevention. We can also take some preventative measures and equip you with anti-nausea medication and/or antibiotics in case the street food you so bravely tried bites back. It’s no fun to be sick here, let alone in a developing country. Better safe than sorry, right?

Related information:

Blog: Travel Medicine Made Simple

Blog: The Cost of Travel Medicine in Chicago

Travel Medicine Services at Innovative Express Care

Image Source: Agência Brasília