How Long Does Laryngitis Last?

Reviewed on 12/16/2020

What is laryngitis?

Acute laryngitis lasts less than two weeks and chronic laryngitis lasts longer than three weeks.
Acute laryngitis lasts less than two weeks and chronic laryngitis lasts longer than three weeks.

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:

  • A fever over 100.4 degrees
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing (in rare cases)

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

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.

Chronic laryngitis

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:

Viral infection

Common viruses like cold and flu viruses can lead to laryngitis. Rarely, fungus or bacteria can also cause it, but viral infections are the most common.

Allergies

Exposure to allergens like dust or certain fumes can also lead to a case of laryngitis.

Smoking/vaping and other irritants

Smoking and vaping can cause laryngitis, as can other inhaled irritants. Some inhaled medications can cause laryngitis. Another cause is internal irritation from heartburn or chronic sinus problems.

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:

  • You have trouble breathing
  • You cough blood
  • You have a high fever that won't go away
  • Your throat pain increases over time instead of decreasing

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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.

For cases of chronic laryngitis, a doctor may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist.

Treatments for laryngitis

You can treat many cases of laryngitis at home by:

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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References
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Laryngitis."

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?"

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