Laryngitis is an inflammation and swelling of the voice box (larynx). If you have laryngitis, you may lose your voice or be hoarse.
Causes and Symptoms of Laryngitis
The most common kind of laryngitis in adults is caused by a cold or flu virus and will get better on its own. In the meantime, do the following things:
- Rest your voice completely (whispering actually puts more strain on your vocal cords than talking normally)
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air to soothe your dry throat
- If you’re a smoker, quit or cut back to decrease irritation
Other causes of laryngitis include the following:
- Bacterial infection
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Smoking tobacco or inhaling chemical fumes or other irritants
- Overuse of the vocal cords (e.g., from yelling or speaking loudly)
Symptoms of laryngitis could include the following:
- Sore throat
- Postnasal drip
- Difficulty swallowing
Signs You Should Get Help for Laryngitis
Fortunately, laryngitis itself isn’t contagious; the cold or flu virus that can cause it is. You should still see your doctor or take your child to the doctor in the following cases:
- Immediately if your hoarseness is accompanied by shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing
- If you have been hoarse, have had soreness associated with speaking, or have been unable to speak for one week without improvement, or for more than two weeks total
- If your baby under three months old sounds hoarse
- If your child has difficulty breathing or swallowing
- If your child is drooling even though he or she is not teething
- If your child has been hoarse for more than one week
- Some laryngitis in children can lead to potentially fatal respiratory blockage, including laryngitis caused by the following:
- Croup, a respiratory infection or irritation with a “barking” cough
- Epiglottitis, an inflammation of the tissue that covers the windpipe (trachea)
If you have been hoarse for more than three weeks and your doctor determines that it's not being caused by a respiratory infection, they will likely refer you to an ear, nose and throat doctor (otolaryngologist) for tests and treatment.
Treatment for Laryngitis at Rush
Your otolaryngologist or laryngologist can treat your laryngitis and may refer to other specialists, such as:
- A gastroenterologist who can assist in the further management of gastroesophageal reflux disease.
- An allergist who can assist in the treatment and management of allergy-related laryngitis.
- A voice therapist who can provide voice therapy and vocal exercises if your physician determines that laryngitis is caused by overuse of the vocal cords.
Rush Excellence in Laryngitis
- Accurate diagnosis: ENT specialists at Rush perform comprehensive testing to determine the cause of your laryngitis. They're committed to making the right diagnosis so they can treat you effectively.
- Same-day care for the daily, professional voice: Vocal professionals, such as singers, actors, teachers, members of the clergy, politicians, public speakers and presenters, who experience laryngitis can receive world-class care through the Rush Professional Voice Program. Our professional voice team includes a fellowship-trained otolaryngologist and a speech-language pathologist with specialized training in voice disorders and therapy (also called a voice therapist).
- Academic medicine: Rush is a large academic health system that offers many resources. The otorhinolaryngology team is skilled at working closely with colleagues in other departments if additional specialists need to be brought in during your diagnosis and treatment processes.