Laryngitis: What You Need to Know

Have you ever woken up with a hoarse, raspy voice that makes you sound like a chain-smoker? If so, chances are you were experiencing laryngitis – an inflammation of the vocal cords or larynx (voice box). While frustrating, this common condition is usually nothing to worry about and often resolves within a week. Let’s explore what causes this temporary voice issue and how to cope until your smooth vocals return.

The Culprits Behind Laryngitis

Laryngitis frequently accompanies another illness like a cold, flu, or sinus infection. Those pesky viruses can irritate and inflame the sensitive tissues of the larynx, leading to hoarseness and vocal difficulties. Raise your hand if you’ve ever strained your voice from cheering too loudly at a concert or sports event – that’s another frequent cause of mechanical laryngitis from excessive vibrations of the vocal cords.

In rarer cases, laryngitis stems from bacterial infections like diphtheria or fungal infections affecting those with weakened immune systems. Chronic laryngitis can also result from irritants like smoke, alcohol, acid reflux, or allergies constantly aggravating the larynx over time.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Most laryngitis cases improve within a week with self-care like resting your voice and staying hydrated. However, severe symptoms like struggling to breathe warrant immediate medical evaluation, especially in children with their narrower airways. If hoarseness persists beyond two weeks, your doctor can check for underlying causes and rule out anything more serious like laryngeal cancer, which smokers and heavy drinkers face higher risks of developing.

Home Remedies for Relief

While laryngitis has to run its course, some home remedies can provide symptom relief:

  • Rest your voice as much as possible (no whispering though – that strains your vocal cords more)
  • Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and warm herbal teas
  • Use over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain/fever
  • Try lozenges, salt water gargles, or menthol liquids to soothe throat irritation
  • Run a cool mist humidifier to keep air moist
  • If you smoke, try quitting – at least temporarily

Most importantly, be patient and give your voice box a break. With some rest and TLC, those vocal cords should be back in working order within a week or so.

An Ounce of Prevention

While you can’t always avoid laryngitis (those pesky viruses are sneaky), there are smart ways to lower your risk:

  • Don’t smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke
  • Limit alcohol, which can dry out and irritate your throat
  • Prevent acid reflux by avoiding heavy, spicy meals before bedtime
  • Get that annual flu shot to protect against influenza viruses
  • Wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading/catching viruses
  • Use a humidifier during dry winter months
  • Stay adequately hydrated every day

For singers, teachers, coaches, and others who rely heavily on their voices, consider voice therapy. A speech therapist can teach proper warm-up exercises and vocal techniques to reduce strain.

With some basic preventive measures, you’ll be less likely to lose your voice to laryngitis. And when you do get it, be diligent about resting up – your vocal cords will thank you!

Photo “Laryngitis” by Anthony Cunningham for Zoom Health

Zoom Health is a leading UK supplier of Home Health Tests and Earplugs

You May Also Like: