The larynx or ‘voice box’ is a part of the throat which enables us to speak. This is an important function and one that we take for granted until something goes wrong. One example of this is laryngitis.

Laryngitis is the medical name for an inflammation of the larynx. This affects the vocal cords which results in a hoarse sounding voice in some cases the voice is lost altogether.

This is not good news if you rely upon your voice to earn a living.

As you might expect professional speakers and singers are particularly prone to laryngitis, usually as a result of overuse although it can be caused by an infection.

Causes of laryngitis

Laryngitis is often caused by a bacterial or viral infection but it can develop for other reasons which include:

  • Strain or overuse, e.g. public speaking
  • Allergy
  • Smoking
  • Excess alcohol consumption

For example, if you have a cold then you may also develop laryngitis.

Symptoms of laryngitis

The most obvious symptom is a hoarse, croaky voice or a voice which weakens over time to the extent that it can hardly be heard. In some cases, the voice disappears altogether.

Other symptoms include:

  • A dry, sore throat
  • High temperature
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Cough
  • Cold or flu-like symptoms
  • Swollen lymph nodes, e.g. in the throat
  • Difficulty in eating
  • Increased saliva in the mouth
  • Breathing difficulties (especially in children)
  • Feeling unwell

The throat feels swollen and sore which makes it difficult to consume anything apart from liquids. It is difficult to talk or to produce any sounds at all.

Laryngitis often clears up without the need for treatment. It may take a week or two to disappear but does this without the need for medical treatment.

But there are a few things you can do to help matters.

Treatment for laryngitis

These include drinking plenty of fluids, sucking throat sweets to ease any pain and discomfort and getting plenty of rest. Painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol can help and are available from over the counter at your local pharmacist.

If you are a smoker then stop smoking in order to allow your larynx time to heal. Avoid smoky environments as well which is easier to do than before due to the smoking ban.

Steam inhalation is another option. Place a few drops of an inhalant decongestant such as ‘Olbas Oil’ into a bowl of hot water, place a towel over your head and inhale the vapours. This will clear your airways and any stuffiness in your head or throat.

Try and rest your voice as much as possible. This is difficult if your job involves using your voice but it is important to allow it time to rest so that your vocal cords will rejuvenate.

Do you need to see your GP?

If your laryngitis persists after a couple of weeks or your temperature remains high –then see your GP. Do this if you find that you are coughing up blood or your throat feels constricted and is affecting your breathing.

If your laryngitis is caused by a bacterial infection then he/she will prescribe a course of antibiotics. You may be referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist if your voice is affected which can be a sign of nodules on the vocal cords.

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