- What is laryngitis?
- What causes laryngitis?
- What are the main symptoms of laryngitis?
- Who can get laryngitis?
- Is laryngitis contagious?
- How long does laryngitis last?
- How can I help treat laryngitis at home?
- What should I avoid doing if I have laryngitis?
- How is laryngitis treated if home remedies are not helping?
- When should I see a doctor?
- What specialist should I see?
- How is laryngitis diagnosed?
- What are the complications of laryngitis?
- How can I prevent laryngitis?
Laryngitis is the medical term used to refer to the inflammation of the voice box (larynx) or vocal chords, often due to viral infection. Typically, the voice box will become swollen and irritated as a direct result of the inflammation in the throat area.
Typically, laryngitis is caused by viral infections such as cold or flu. Allergies, acid reflux and coughing over a prolonged period of time are also causes of laryngitis due to physical damage of the larynx.
The main symptoms of laryngitis include:
If a child has laryngitis, they might also have temperature and loss of appetite, and rarely breathing difficulties. Since laryngitis is associated with other conditions, like a cold or flu, other symptoms may be experienced.
Anyone can suffer from laryngitis. Some people are at a higher risk of developing it, for example, people who:
If laryngitis is caused by an infection, the infection-causing bacteria or virus can be passed on from one person to another, making it contagious.
Usually, laryngitis will go away without treatment, within a week or two. The first three days are usually when the symptoms are worst. If laryngitis is caused by an irritant, such as dust, it may come and go or remain permanently, causing chronic laryngitis.
Laryngitis will usually resolve on its own within one to two weeks. Effective home remedies to help treat and cure laryngitis include:
- drinking plenty of fluids
- avoiding speaking whenever possible
- gargling with warm salty water
- eating a few hours before sleeping to prevent acid reflux
- using a humidifier and breathing moist air.
There are many things a patient should avoid doing if they are suffering from laryngitis, such as:
- avoid talking loudly or whispering
- avoid smoking
- avoid spending time in dusty spaces
- avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol.
Patients should seek the medical advice of a pharmacist if they do not see an improvement in symptoms. A pharmacist will typically recommend patients suffering from laryngitis symptoms the following:
- ibuprofen or paracetamol
- cough syrup
- throat lozenges.
Patients should see their GP if they are experiencing any of the following:
- symptoms of laryngitis have not improved after two weeks
- symptoms of laryngitis become worse, like coughing up blood or constant fever
- difficulty swallowing or if it is extremely painful to swallow
- persistent suffering of laryngitis symptoms and/or voice problems.
Patients suffering from laryngitis symptoms should consult with their local family doctor first. After this consultation, the patient will then typically be referred to an otolaryngologist.
To diagnose laryngitis, doctors will usually perform a physical exam and look at the inside of the throat by using a laryngoscopy. They may also do a swab test, with a cotton bud on the back of the throat, and a blood test, to confirm the cause of the inflammation. By determining the cause, the most appropriate treatment can be given.
Due to the narrower size of a child’s windpipe, there is a small possibility they will experience breathing difficulties due to obstruction if the voice box is inflamed. Breathing difficulties in children can also arise if the flap at the back of the tongue, the epiglottis, becomes inflamed. Croup, or barking cough, can also affect children as a result of laryngitis.
Often laryngitis is a result of common viruses that cause infection, like colds or flu, or irritants. To protect yourself and reduce the risk of getting laryngitis:
- get the flu vaccine
- wash hands frequently
- distance yourself from people with respiratory infections
- avoid irritants, smoking, consuming alcohol
- sleep with your head raised, held up by pillows to avoid acid reflux
- don’t strain your voice for a prolonged period.