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Laryngitis – Symptoms and causes

Publisher/Author : Pacific Cross

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)


Know the basics

What is laryngitis?

Laryngitis is a condition that causes inflammation of your larynx, also known as your voice box. Inside your voice box are your vocal cords, 2 folds of mucous membranes.

Normally, your voice is formed through the vibration if these 2 folds. When inflamed, your voice become hoarse or is lost. You may also experience harsh breathing and a painful cough. The inflammation is usually caused by overuse, irritation, or infection.

Laryngitis can be temporary or can last for a long period time. If your symptoms last long, it may be a sign of something more serious. It is important to get checked with your doctor.

How common is laryngitis?

Laryngitis is a fairly common disease. This is more common in people who use their voice constantly on a daily basis such has public speakers and singers. It is also common in people who are infected with a cold or bronchitis. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of laryngitis?

The common sign and symptom of laryngitis is your voice becomes deep and hoarse or in some cases the voice is lost. Other symptoms include:

  • Tickling sensation at the throat;
  • Weak voice;
  • Dry cough;
  • Sore throat.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

Laryngitis is not a serious condition and can usually resolve with home treatments. In some cases, laryngitis may be a sign of a more serious condition. You should consult your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing;
  • Cough up blood;
  • Fever higher than 39.5 C (103 F);
  • Painful sore throat that is increasing;
  • Difficulty swallowing.

Know the causes

What causes laryngitis?

The most common causes of laryngitis depends if it is short-lived (acute) or long-term (chronic). Here are some of the common causes:

Acute laryngitis

  • Viral infections (Colds, bronchitis);
  • Vocal strains (yelling, shouting, overusing your voice);
  • Bacterial infections (diphtheria).

Chronic laryngitis

  • Inhaled irritants (chemical fumes, allergens, smoke);
  • Smoking;
  • Chronic sinusitis;
  • Excessive use of alcohol.

Some forms of laryngitis in children can be caused by respiratory obstruction or infection such as croup or epiglottitis.  These are very serious conditions. You should contact your doctor right away.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for laryngitis?

There are many risk factors for laryngitis, such as:

  • Having respiratory infections, such as colds, bronchitis, and sinusitis.
  • Being exposed to irritants such as tobacco smoke, drink excessive stomach acid or chemicals at work.
  • Overusing your voice, by talking too much, talking too loudly, shouting or singing.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is laryngitis diagnosed?

To provide a proper diagnosis, your doctor will examine your medical history and physical condition. In addition your doctor may perform the following tests:

  • This procedure involves inserting a tiny mirror and light to examine your vocal cords. In some cases,
  • If your doctor suspect a tumor then this test will determine if there any cancerous cells.

How is laryngitis treated?

For acute laryngitis, symptoms will usually resolve on its own within a week or so. You can use some home treatments or non-prescription drugs to relieve your discomfort.

These may include analgesics (NSAIDs such as ibuprofen), cough syrups or paracetamol. You should also rest your voice by saying little or writing messages on notes instead. For more chronic laryngitis, your doctor may prescribe the following treatment options:

  • These drugs will only work against bacterial infections and not for viral infections.
  • These drugs may help reduce the inflammation in your vocal cords. These are reserved for more severe cases such as croup.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage laryngitis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with laryngitis:

  • Rest your voice. You can use notes or your messages.
  • Breathe moist air. You can use a humidifier or inhale steam from using a bowl filled with hot water.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. This will prevent dehydration.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoke.
  • Use throat lozenges or gargling with salt water.
  • Avoid decongestants. This can dry out your throat.
  • Avoid straining your voice, such as whispering.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.


  • Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Print edition. Page 541
  • Porter, R. S., Kaplan, J. L., Homeier, B. P., & Albert, R. K. (2009). The Merck manual home health handbook. Whitehouse
  • Station, NJ, Merck Research Laboratories. Page 1403
  • Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017
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