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Laryngitis is an inflammation and swelling of the voice box (larynx). If you have laryngitis, you may lose your voice or be hoarse.

Other symptoms of laryngitis could include the following:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Postnasal drip
  • Difficulty swallowing

Laryngitis: what you should know

  • 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:

Symptoms of 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:

  • Adults:
    • 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
  • Children:
    • Immediately:
    • 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.

Care for laryngitis at Rush

The Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at Rush treats people who have disorders of the ear, nose, throat, head and neck.

Your ear, nose and throat doctor will perform tests on your throat and upper airway to determine the cause of your laryngitis. Your treatment plan will depend on the cause of your laryngitis and may involve other specialists at Rush, including the following.

  • A gastroenterologist can treat laryngitis caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • An allergist can treat allergy-related laryngitis
  • A voice therapist can give you vocal exercises if your physician determines that laryngitis is caused by overuse of the vocal cords

Laryngitis care for the 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 comprises a fellowship-trained otolaryngologist and a speech-language pathologist with specialized training in voice disorders and therapy (also called a voice therapist).

If you have laryngitis or another a problem with your voice that needs to be addressed  immediately because of an upcoming performance, audition or appearance, the program offers same-day appointments.

Why choose Rush for laryngitis care

  • Accurate diagnosis. ENT specialists in Rush's Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery perform comprehensive testing to determine the cause of your laryngitis. They're committed to making the right diagnosis so they can treat you effectively.
  • Specialized care for voice issues and the professional voice. The Voice, Airway and Swallowing Disorders Program at Rush specializes in treating common and complex voice problems. The program is staffed by ENT physicians, speech pathologists, and voice therapists who approach your case as a team and coordinate treatment so that it's seamless for you. These experts also offer specialized care for the professional voice, including same-day appointments for voice issues that arise close to a performance or appearance. 
  • Academic medicine. Rush is a large medical center that offers many resources. The otoryhinolaryngology 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.

Departments and programs that treat this condition