What is laryngitis?
Laryngitis is when your voice box (larynx) or vocal cords become inflamed from infection, irritation, or being overused. This inflammation can change the way your vocal cords vibrate, causing changes to your voice.
Most cases of laryngitis go away by themselves in less than two weeks.
Symptoms of laryngitis
The main symptoms of laryngitis include:
- Hoarseness, which can include a change in volume or pitch and range from a quiet, scratchy voice to a harsh, deep voice
- Losing your voice entirely
- A cough that is not going away
- Feeling the need to clear your throat often
- A sore throat or pain when talking. Swallowing may also be painful.
Common symptoms in children include:
Types of laryngitis
Laryngitis is classified either as acute, which means a sudden onset and a short duration, or chronic, which means lasting a long time.
Acute laryngitis generally lasts less than two weeks and goes away on its own. You can often treat it at home, and it may not require medical attention. Vocal strain and irritants can cause it, but it is more often caused by infections.
This type of laryngitis lasts longer than three weeks. It can be caused by an infection, but more often it is caused by irritants or overuse of your voice. Treatment may require working with a speech-language pathologist or making lifestyle changes to adjust how and when you use your voice.
Causes of laryngitis
There are several causes of laryngitis. These include:
Exposure to allergens like dust or certain fumes can also lead to a case of laryngitis.
Smoking/vaping and other irritants
Poor vocal hygiene
Vocal hygiene is how you care for your voice. Poor vocal hygiene can lead to laryngitis. Proper vocal hygiene includes:
- Staying hydrated
- Warming up your voice before doing things like singing or giving a long speech
- Moving to a quieter area to talk instead of talking over loud music or the television
- Using other signals besides yelling when trying to get someone's attention
When to see the doctor for laryngitis
You can often treat laryngitis at home. However, you should see a doctor if your symptoms last longer than two weeks. You should also see a doctor if you have difficulty swallowing or you keep having vocal problems.
Seek out emergency medical attention if:
Diagnosis and tests for laryngitis
To diagnose laryngitis, a doctor may look down your throat or test your throat or blood for bacteria or viruses.
Treatments for laryngitis
You can treat many cases of laryngitis at home by:
- Taking over-the-counter medications to treat a sore throat and coughing
- Using throat-soothing lozenges
- Speaking as little as possible
- Using a humidifier
- Staying hydrated
- Gargling with warm saltwater
- Staying away from smoke and other irritants
- Avoiding caffeine and alcohol, which can cause dehydration
- Avoiding allergens
If you have laryngitis for more than two weeks, go to the doctor. They may give you antibiotics to treat an infection. Sometimes, people with chronic laryngitis work with a speech-language pathologist to learn how to use their voice properly and avoid stressing it.
Some people may also benefit from taking oral steroids for bad cases of laryngitis. However, experts say it is best for those with chronic laryngitis to avoid long-term steroid use and address the cause of the problem.
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Mayo Clinic: "Laryngitis."
National Health Service: "Laryngitis."
StatPearls: "Acute Laryngitis."
University of North Carolina School of Medicine: "Taking Care of Your Voice: What is Vocal Hygiene?"