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Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

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 within 1-2 weeks. Other causes may be allergies or acid reflux, GERD, a strain on your vocal cords, or bacterial infections.

What are the symptoms of laryngitis?

The main symptom of laryngitis is a husky or hoarse voice, or losing your voice. People may also have a sore throat 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.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

You do not need to see your doctor if you are an adult with laryngitis. The symptoms usually go away within a couple of weeks.

The pharmacist can advise you on simple painkillers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Cough syrup and lozenges can sometimes help if you have a nagging cough or sore throat.

When should I see my doctor?

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 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 for which you should seek medical attention promptly would include:

  • if you have fevers
  • trouble breathing
  • you are finding it painful or difficult to swallow
  • you are vomiting
  • 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, or referring you to a specialist if required.

How to manage laryngitis at home

It is advised to drink plenty of fluids, use a humidifier or steam inhalation, or use soothing lozenges to reduce dryness in the throat. If you use your voice regularly (singing or teaching), then it is important to rest your voice, including avoiding whispering, as this can also strain your vocal cords. Gargling warm salty water to keep your vocal cords moist and hydrated can also be helpful.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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