The larynx (your ‘voice box’) , is made up of two muscle bands – known as your vocal cords - that stretch across the windpipe in your throat (your trachea). If these vocal cords become inflamed or swollen, this is called laryngitis. This is usually caused by a viral infection and typically gets worse for the first 2-3 days before slowly going back to normal by itself within 1-2 weeks. Other causes may be allergies or acid reflux, strain on your vocal cords, or bacterial infections.
The main symptom of laryngitis is a husky, squeaky or hoarse voice, or losing your voice completely. People may also have a sore throat, a mild temperature (fever) and a bothersome cough that may cause you to clear your throat frequently. Younger children can have a fever, poor appetite and sometimes in rare cases they can have difficulty breathing.
You do not need to see your doctor as an adult if you have a simple laryngitis as the symptoms usually go away within a couple of weeks.
Your pharmacist can advise you on simple painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen and cough syrups and lozenges can sometimes help if you have a niggling cough or a sore throat.
If your symptoms don’t improve after 2 weeks or you have recurrent laryngitis symptoms, then it’s important that you see your doctor.
There may be other causes of a sore throat or coughing, so if you think your symptoms are not caused by laryngitis alone, it is important to see your doctor. Some symptoms that could indicate other causes would include; if you have fevers, trouble breathing, if you are finding it painful or difficult to swallow, if you are vomiting, or if you have tender lumps at the back of your throat.
Your doctor may consider prescribing antibiotics as well as doing more tests, like taking a sample from the back of your throat, taking some blood for testing or referring you to a specialist if required.
It is advised to drink plenty of fluids, use a humidifier or steam inhalation to reduce dryness in the throat. If you use your voice regularly (such as with singing or teaching) then it is important to rest your voice, including avoiding whispering, as this can also strain your vocal chords. Gargling warm salty water to keep your cords moist and hydrated can also be helpful.
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