Skip to Content

COVID-19 Info:  Vaccines | Testing | Visitor GuidelinesStats | More

IMPORTANT NOTICE: COVID-19 testing appointments are not available at Cone Health emergency departments or urgent care locations. Click here for testing options.

Published on October 06, 2017

What's the Difference Between Strep Throat and Bronchitis?

Sore Throat

Waking up with a sore throat is never a pleasant experience for anyone. It may just be the sign of a cold or your allergies acting up but how do you know when it is something more. A painful sore throat could be a symptom of strep throat or even bronchitis if accompanied by a cough. Here's how to tell the difference.

Strep Throat

Strep throat is a highly contagious bacterial infection that can cause pain and inflammation in the throat. Strep throat is more commonly found in children, typically between the ages of 5-15, but can affect all age groups. While a sore red throat with white patches is the most common sign of strep throat, other symptoms can include:

  • abdominal pain
  • fever
  • nausea
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • body aches
  • rash
  • chills

While the severity of strep throat can vary from person to person, it’s important for everyone to seek a medical evaluation as soon as possible, especially if they know they’ve been exposed to strep throat. Prompt treatment is important since strep throat can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious complications if left untreated. Immediate treatment can also alleviate the symptoms of strep throat and keep it from spreading to other people.

Strep throat is highly contagious, which makes practicing good hygiene, such as regular hand washing and not sharing drinks or food, an important step to preventing the infection from spreading.


Acute bronchitis is a lower respiratory infection characterized by a cough is caused by an inflammation of the trachea and large airways. Bronchitis occurs when the lining of the bronchioles, or tubes in the lungs, become inflamed. Most often this is caused by viruses such as influenza A/B, rhinovirus, or adenovirus. Bronchitis can be a viral or bacterial infection depending on the duration and severity of the symptoms, although viruses are responsible for approximately 90% of bronchitis cases.

The most common symptom of bronchitis is a cough that persists for more than 5 days, with or without sputum production. Bronchitis can also cause sore throat as well as other symptoms including:

  • nasal congestion
  • runny nose
  • fatigue
  • wheezing

Fever is not common with bronchitis, but a low-grade fever could also occur. The cough associated with bronchitis may remain after respiratory symptoms are treated and could last up to 3 to 4 weeks. If you experience symptoms, it’s important to make an appointment with your primary care provider for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

2 Your Well-Being

Cone Health and WFMY News 2 are excited to partner together to provide health and wellness information for you and your family. Watch Cone Health experts on television and online.

Tune in to WFMY News 2 every Monday to watch health segments on a variety of wellness topics.