Laryngitis is swelling and inflammation of the larynx. It can be acute or chronic, although in most cases the condition is temporary and has no serious consequences. The larynx also referred to as the voice box, is home to the vocal cords. These are vital to the processes of breathing, swallowing, and talking. The vocal cords are two small folds of mucous membrane covering cartilage and muscle that vibrate to produce sound.
The vocal cords, two folds of tissue within your larynx, become inflamed. Sound from the area is muffled, and you are hoarse. Laryngitis usually isn’t a big deal. With proper treatment, it should go away in no more than 3 weeks. But you have ways to stop it from happening or make it go away faster.
Laryngitis can cause a wide range of symptoms in adults, including:
- Difficulty with speech
- Throat pain
- Low fever
- Persistent cough
- Frequent throat clearing
These symptoms begin suddenly and often become more severe over the next 2 to 3 days. If symptoms last for more than 3 weeks, the case has likely become chronic. This suggests a more serious underlying cause that warrants further investigation.
Laryngitis often relates to other illnesses. Tonsilitis, throat infection, cold, or flu can occur alongside a case of laryngitis, so the following symptoms may also occur:
- Swelling in the glands
- Runny nose
- Pain while swallowing
- Fatigue and malaise
The symptoms are likely to resolve without treatment by the seventh day of infection. See a doctor if the symptoms persist for longer or present severely.
Symptoms in children
Symptoms of laryngitis in children can differ from symptoms in adults. The condition is often characterized by a hoarse, barking cough and fever, and may also present as croup.
Croup is a contagious respiratory illness common among children. Although croup is usually a simple illness to treat, severe cases require medical attention.
Medical attention is recommended for children experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty with breathing or swallowing
- A fever of over 103° Fahrenheit or 39.4° Celsius
- Loud, high-pitched breathing sounds when inhaling
These symptoms can also indicate epiglottitis. This is inflammation of the tissue surrounding the trachea, or windpipe. Both adults and children can develop epiglottitis, and the condition can be life-threatening in certain cases.
Several conditions can cause laryngitis. Acute and chronic forms of laryngitis typically result from different factors.
The most common cause of laryngitis is a viral infection, often similar to those that cause the common cold or flu. Overuse of the voice can also cause inflammation of the larynx. Examples of overuse include loud singing or excessive shouting.
In very rare instances, acute laryngitis can be caused by diphtheria, a bacterial infection. Most people in the U.S. have received a diphtheria immunization.
Chronic laryngitis is typically caused by the following:
- Acid reflux, a condition in which stomach acid and contents are brought back up into the throat
- Bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infection
- Chronic sinusitis
- Excessive coughing
- Exposure to inhaled irritants, such as allergens or toxic fumes
- High alcohol intake
- Habitual misuse or overuse of voice
- Smoking, including secondhand smoke
- Use of inhaled steroid medicines, such as asthma inhalers
In rare cases, vocal cord inflammation can cause respiratory distress, which requires immediate medical attention.
A bacterial infection causing epiglottitis can also spread beyond the epiglottis and larynx to other areas in your respiratory tract and into your bloodstream. If you have a bacterial infection, follow your doctor’s treatment plan closely to stop the infection from spreading.
If an underlying condition like vocal cord paralysis or throat cancer is causing your laryngitis, complications can be severe if the condition isn’t treated. Vocal cord paralysis can cause trouble breathing and swallowing. Food can also get into the lungs, which can cause pneumonia.
Advanced throat cancer can be fatal or require surgery or chemotherapy. See your doctor if your laryngitis symptoms are affecting your ability to eat, speak, or breathe, or if they’re causing you intense pain. The earlier you address serious laryngitis symptoms, the more likely your doctor can treat possible underlying conditions.
The best way to keep your vocal cords and voice box healthy is to keep them moist and free from irritants.
To avoid common irritants:
- Avoid smoking and being around people who smoke
- Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake
- Wash your hands regularly to avoid catching colds and upper respiratory infections
- Avoid toxic chemicals in the workplace
- Avoid foods that cause indigestion and heartburn
Besides, try to avoid clearing your throat. This increases inflammation and irritation.
Laryngitis Risk factors
People at a higher risk for chronic laryngitis are tobacco smokers and people who are regularly exposed to irritating inhalants or toxic chemicals. You also have a greater risk if you:
- Overuse your voice regularly
- Have chronic sinus inflammation (sinusitis)
- Drink too much alcohol
- Have allergies
You can also develop ulcers or growths, such as polyps or cysts, on your vocal cords over time if you talk or sing excessively. Vocal cords can lose their ability to vibrate as you age. This makes you more susceptible to chronic laryngitis.
Laryngitis Tests and diagnosis
Physicians typically diagnose laryngitis with a physical examination that assesses the ears, nose, throat, and voice. In most cases, no additional testing is required.
The most common symptom of the condition is hoarseness, so doctors will take care to listen to the voice of the person with laryngitis. They may also ask questions about lifestyle, potential exposure to airborne irritants, and other related diseases.
If a person presents with chronic hoarseness, a doctor may recommend additional testing to fully examine the vocal cords. Chronic hoarseness can be caused by other conditions, such as cancer in the throat area. This symptom will require follow-up tests to rule out a more serious illness.
A laryngoscope can be used to observe the motion of the vocal cords when in use and determine the presence of any polyps or nodules on the vocal cords. A biopsy can be carried out if a suspicious area of tissue requires further assessment.
Anyone with symptoms that last longer than 2 weeks should consult their physician. In some cases, a doctor may refer the person with laryngitis to an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist.
Cases of acute laryngitis are often best treated with rest, home remedies, and self-care measures that can relieve symptoms.
Doctors will normally advise rest to manage the symptoms of laryngitis.
For laryngitis, rest means limiting the use of the larynx. Avoid talking, singing, or using the voice box. Although whispering may seem like a gentler alternative to speaking at a normal volume, this requires that the vocal cords are tightly stretched, hampering their recovery. Whispering should also be avoided.
Other simple home remedies include:
- Avoiding decongestants, as these dry out the throat
- Breathing moist air
- Using acetaminophens, such as paracetamol, or ibuprofen to control the pain
- Avoiding inhalation of irritants, such as smoking or second-hand smoke
- Drinking plenty of fluids
Doctors may prescribe antibiotics in cases where laryngitis has been caused by a bacterial infection. However, a recent review found that the risks of prescribing antibiotics for acute laryngitis typically outweigh the benefits.
Corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce vocal cord inflammation in severe or urgent cases. This may apply to people who use the voice professionally, such as professional singers or public speakers. Infants with severe croup may also receive a course of corticosteroids.
Chronic laryngitis may require more extensive ongoing treatment. The cause of the inflammation will determine this. If the laryngitis is caused by another condition, such as acid reflux or sinusitis, then treatment for the associated condition can also treat the laryngitis symptoms.
Laryngitis treatment may require lifestyle changes. For example, if singing is deemed to be the cause of laryngitis, the patient may need to alter their singing method. Speech training may be recommended in such cases. Avoiding alcohol, tobacco smoke, and irritants can also help.
A person may need surgery in cases where the vocal cords have been badly damaged as a result of polyp or nodule growth.
People can take several measures to limit dryness and irritation to the vocal cords.
The following steps can help reduce the risk of laryngitis:
- Avoid clearing the throat.
- Take steps to prevent upper respiratory infections, such as practicing good hygiene and avoiding contact with people who have contagious infections.
- Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke where possible.
- Limit or eliminate alcohol and caffeine intake, as these can increase the risk of dehydration.
Laryngitis can be uncomfortable, but it is easily manageable and often short-lived.
Laryngitis Frequently Asked Questions
How can I prevent laryngitis?
Laryngitis can be prevented by taking certain small steps like:
- Avoid vocal strain by not yelling, screaming, or talking loudly, especially when you have a cold or other throat or sinus infection.
- Maintain good hygiene and cleanliness to avoid viral infections.
- Don’t smoke or indulge in too much alcohol.
- Keep your home well humidified in cold weather.
- If you have a heartburn or reflux problem, please see your doctor prevent reflux laryngitis.
- Have a very healthy and balanced diet and a stress-free mind for a healthy immune system. A strong immune system can be a great defense against viral or bacterial infections.
What are some things I should do or avoid when I have laryngitis?
While you are suffering from laryngitis, you should:
- Give your voice as much rest as possible
- Do gargles with warm water and a little turmeric. It greatly helps in reducing the inflammation
- Keep your body hydrated with lots of oral fluids (these do not include aerated and cold drinks)
- Maintain hygienic environment as much as possible to avoid infections
- Home remedies like herbal tea may prove beneficial.
- Avoid whispering, yelling or straining your voice.
- Avoid self-medicating.
Does following any particular diet help in laryngitis?
There is no particular diet to be followed, except for having healthy nutritious food to maintain strong immunity. This includes fresh fruits, vegetables, salads, whole grain, etc. However, there are some foods that you must avoid like Sour foods like pineapple, lime, oranges, and tomato, ketchup, sauces, etc. should be avoided. These foods contain acid which can backflow from the stomach to the esophagus in patients with acid reflux and turn cause laryngitis.
Highly seasoned and spicy foods as they may irritate your larynx. Caffeinated, cold and aerated beverages, as well as alcohol, should be strictly avoided.
How can Homoeopathy help in Laryngitis?
Homeopathy offers excellent therapeutic results in Laryngitis. Laryngitis being an inflammatory process, homeopathic medicines act at the cellular level thereby arresting the inflammation, healing the body within and preventing further damage. Homeopathy assists the body’s natural healing and brings about a safe and long-lasting relief.
Homeopathy is free from side effects and it can be given to all including even infants and pregnant women. No two leaves of a single branch of the same tree have the same vein pattern, neither are the fingerprints for two different individuals. Every living being is unique in its way, even the disease manifestations in different individuals are unique and so must be the treatment.
There is no system of medicine as individualized as Homeopathy is. And so there are nearly more than hundreds of medicines for treatment for laryngitis which can be used in different cases. For example, if laryngitis occurs due to exposure to dry cold winds, then Hepar Sulph can be prescribed. For laryngitis in professional singers, orators, etc, Argentum Met can be helpful.
Is surgery required in all cases of Laryngitis?
Surgery is not indicated in all cases of laryngitis. When hoarseness is caused by a tumor or other obstruction of the vocal cords or throat, surgery is often required to remove the object. Laryngitis caused by polyps and growths on the vocal cords could necessitate surgery. However, prolonged hoarseness or laryngitis not responding to treatment would require laryngoscopy to get a better idea of the disease for further assessment.
When should I see my doctor for laryngitis?
If you have any of the below complaints, you need to consult a medical professional immediately:
- Sudden change in voice quality, alteration in the pitch of voice
- Hoarseness persisting for more than two weeks
- In children, sudden difficulty in breathing or swallowing with a barking cough
- Loud or harsh cry, change in pitch in infants
- Pain while talking or swallowing
What are the risks involved which predispose me to laryngitis?
You are at risk of developing laryngitis if you are:
- A Professional Singer, Public speaker, orator, teacher
- Consuming Alcohol and Smoking
- Prolong exposure to chemicals and toxic fumes can irritate the larynx and cause chronic hoarseness leading to laryngitis.
- Lacking basic Hygiene
To know more about these risk factors, click Laryngitis Risk Factors.
Is Honey Good for laryngitis?
Drinking warm water helps relieve pain and inflammation, and honey is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory substance. By fighting inflammation, it may help reduce pain and discomfort in the throat. Honey can also act as a cough suppressant. People who find honey too sweet can add lemon juice to the hot water.
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