Laryngitis

Laryngitis is inflammation (swelling) of your voice box (the larynx). It's usually caused by an infection or damage to the larynx. In most cases, it gets better without treatment in about one to two weeks. See your GP if your symptoms are severe or haven't improved after two weeks.

Symptoms of laryngitis 

Symptoms of laryngitis can begin suddenly. They usually get worse over a period of two to three days. 

Symptoms of laryngitis include:

  • hoarseness
  • difficulty speaking
  • sore throat
  • mild fever
  • irritating cough
  • a constant need to clear your throat

The hoarse voice and difficulty speaking  usually get worse each day you're ill. This may last for up to a week after the other symptoms have gone.

Laryngitis is often linked to another illness, such as a cold, flu, throat infection (pharyngitis) or tonsillitis, so you might also have other symptoms such as:

A pharmacist can help with laryngitis

Speak to a pharmacist about your sore throat. They can give advice and suggest treatments, including:

  • paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • cough syrup to help with your cough
  • solutions to gargle or lozenges for the pain

When to seek medical help 

Laryngitis often gets better quickly without treatment. You normally only need to see your GP if the symptoms are particularly severe or they last longer than two weeks.

You should seek immediate medical help if you or your child experience difficulty breathing. If your child is having severe difficulty breathing dial 999 for an ambulance. If it seems less severe contact your GP or GP out of hours services.  

If you see your GP, they'll discuss the possible causes with you. They may refer you or your child for tests or to a specialist in hospital.

Why it happens 

In most cases, laryngitis is caused by either: a viral infection (such as a cold or flu) or damage to your larynx (usually by straining your voice).

In these cases, most of the symptoms usually pass within one to two weeks.  

How laryngitis is treated 

Most cases of laryngitis get better without treatment within one to two weeks.

To help your vocal cords heal, it's important:

  • not to smoke to avoid smoky environments
  • drink plenty of fluids (particularly water)
  • to try to rest your voice as much as possible

Reducing your risk of developing laryngitis 

As laryngitis is often caused by a common viral infection, such as a cold or flu, it's not always possible to prevent it.

You can help reduce your risk of developing the condition by:

  • making sure you have the annual flu vaccine (if recommended by your GP)
  • practising good personal hygiene – such as washing your hands before and after eating and after using the toilet
  • avoiding close contact with people who have respiratory infections, such as a cold or flu – particularly if you're prone to laryngitis
  • avoiding irritants, such as smoke or dust – particularly if you have a cold or other respiratory tract infection
  • not smoking
  • not drinking more than the recommended limits of alcohol
  • not regularly clearing your throat – as this can irritate the larynx (try swallowing instead)
  • raising your head with pillows when you're sleeping – to protect your larynx from any acid reflux from your stomach during sleep
  • not shouting or singing loudly or for long periods of time – it's important for people who regularly use their voice excessively to receive proper training so they don't damage their larynx

 

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

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