Laryngitis is inflammation of your larynx (voice box). The larynx holds your vocal cords. Your vocal cords usually open and close easily to form sounds. With laryngitis, your vocal cords swell and become irritated. This may change how your voice sounds, or you may lose your voice for a short while.
What causes laryngitis?
- Overuse of voice from shouting, singing loudly, or speaking loudly
- Irritation from smoke, pollution, chemicals, or pollen
- Infection with a virus, bacteria, or fungus
- Certain medical conditions, such as acid reflux
What are the signs and symptoms of laryngitis?
- A weak voice or loss of voice
- Hoarse, raspy voice
- Sore, dry, raw throat
- Clearing your throat often
- Dry cough
How is laryngitis diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider may ask about your symptoms and examine your throat. He or she may use a light and tiny mirror to see your vocal cords. Instead, a thin, flexible tube may be inserted through your mouth to the back of your throat. This is called a laryngoscopy. Sometimes, a small sample of tissue from the area is needed. This is called a biopsy. The tissue sample is sent to a lab for tests.
How is laryngitis treated?
Laryngitis usually gets better on its own within 1 to 2 weeks. Medicines such as steroids or antibiotics may be used in some cases.
How can I manage my symptoms?
- Rest your voice. Try to talk as little as possible.
- Use a cool mist humidifier to increase air moisture in your home. This may soothe your throat and decrease your cough.
- Keep your mouth and throat moist. Suck on a throat lozenge or chew sugarless gum.
- Do not smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause dryness and irritation in your throat and vocal cords. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
- Drink liquids as directed. You may need to drink extra liquids to help soothe your throat. Water or warm tea are good liquids to drink.
- Avoid spicy and acidic foods. These may irritate your throat. Examples include citrus, salad dressings, and hot sauces. Carbonated drinks may also cause discomfort in your throat.
- Try not to clear your throat. This can cause more irritation and swelling of your vocal cords.
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:
- You have sudden trouble breathing.
- You have severe drooling or trouble swallowing.
When should I seek immediate care?
- You cough up blood.
- You have severe pain.
When should I call my doctor?
- Your symptoms last longer than 2 weeks.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.