Laryngitis

Laryngitis is an infection or irritation of the voice box (larynx). The most common cause is a viral infection, such as a cold. Other causes include allergies; excessive talking, singing, or yelling; cigarette smoke; and the backflow (reflux) of stomach acid into the throat. Heavy drinking or smoking can lead to chronic laryngitis.

Symptoms include:

  • Hoarseness or loss of voice.
  • The urge to clear your throat.
  • Fever.
  • Fatigue.
  • Throat pain.
  • Cough.

Your voice box usually heals in 5 to 10 days. Medicine does little to speed recovery. Hoarseness may last up to 1 week after a cold goes away. If hoarseness is caused by a cold, treat the cold.

Home treatment can help relieve the discomfort of laryngitis.

  • Rest your voice. Talk as little as possible. Don't shout or whisper, and avoid clearing your throat.
  • Stop smoking and avoid other people's smoke.
  • Humidify your bedroom or your whole house, if possible.
  • Drink 8 to 12 glasses of water a day. You are drinking enough if you are urinating more often than usual.
  • To soothe the throat, gargle with warm salt water [1 tsp (5 g) in 8 fl oz (240 mL) of water] or drink weak tea or hot water with honey or lemon juice in it. Do not give honey to children younger than 1 year of age.

To prevent hoarseness, talk more quietly as soon as you feel minor pain. Give your vocal cords a rest.

Last Updated: February 25, 2010

Author: Jan Nissl, RN, BS

Medical Review: David Messenger, MD Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine

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