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Laryngitis

What is laryngitis?

Laryngitis is an inflammation of your voice box (larynx). It is usually caused by an infection. If you have laryngitis your voice may become hoarse or you may lose it completely.

What are the symptoms of laryngitis?

The symptoms of laryngitis depend on how severe the swelling in your throat is. The symptoms tend to come on suddenly and get worse over the first three days. They can include:

  • a hoarse or croaky voice
  • losing your voice
  • a persistent cough that may be tickly or irritating
  • a sore throat
  • a constant need to clear your throat

Laryngitis tends to get better within one to two weeks. However, you may find that your voice does not fully return to normal for up to a week after the other symptoms have gone.

Laryngitis is often triggered by an upper respiratory tract infection, like a cold or the flu. So you may also have symptoms, such as:

  • a headache
  • swollen glands
  • a runny nose
  • feeling tired and achy

Do I need to see a doctor for laryngitis?

Laryngitis usually gets better on its own within one to two weeks, so most cases of laryngitis do not need medical treatment.

However, you should see your doctor if:

  • your symptoms persist for more than two weeks
  • it is painful or difficult to swallow
  • laryngitis or voice problems keep returning

If you have any breathing problems, call an ambulance or see your doctor immediately.

Is laryngitis contagious?

Yes, in most cases. Laryngitis is typically caused by a viral infection that can be spread through coughs, sneezes and the saliva of infected people.

You can also develop laryngitis when something physically irritates or damages your larynx.

The irritant could be something you are allergic to, exposure to toxins in the air, using your voice too much, stomach acid reflux, or a medical condition. This type of laryngitis (non-infectious) is not contagious.

How long can you have laryngitis?

Laryngitis typically lasts around one to two weeks, although your voice may not return to normal for about three weeks as your voice box needs time to heal.

It is possible to have chronic laryngitis, which lasts for longer than three weeks. This can be caused by many things, including acid reflux, smoking, and allergic reactions to toxins.

If your symptoms persist for more than two weeks, or your voice is still hoarse or croaky for more than three weeks, see you doctor. You may have an underlying medical condition that requires treatment.

How do you treat laryngitis?

In most cases, laryngitis does not need treatment and resolves on its own within one to two weeks.

You can help your recovery by resting your voice, keeping the air around you humid (use a humidifier at home), gargling with warm salty water, and avoiding anything that may irritate your throat, such as smoke, caffeine and alcohol. Cough syrup may be recommended if you are suffering from a cough.

If your symptoms persist, see your doctor. They can investigate the cause of your symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if your symptoms are caused by a bacterial infection.

What is the best home remedy for laryngitis?

There are a few things you can try at home to help manage laryngitis, including:

  • drinking lots of fluids
  • resting your voice (try to speak as little as possible)
  • using a humidifier or putting out bowls of water to moisten the air
  • gargling with warm, salty water
  • avoiding alcohol or caffeine as they can be dehydrating
  • not smoking
  • staying away from places with a lot of dust or smoke

You can also ask a pharmacist for non-prescription products, such as painkillers, lozenges, sprays or gargling solutions for pain relief.

Is laryngitis a viral or bacterial infection?

Laryngitis can be caused by viral or bacterial infections. However, viral laryngitis is more common.

Laryngitis is not always caused by an infection. It can be triggered by damage to the larynx from many different things, such as allergies, acid reflux, or straining your voice.

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.