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What is Laryngitis?

Laryngitis is a condition caused by inflammation of the larynx or voice box.

Laryngitis(喉嚨發炎, 喉炎) is a condition caused by inflammation of the larynx or voice box. Within the voicebox are two bands of muscle, the vocal cords, which are stretched across the windpipe and allow us to speak and make sound when they vibrate together.  

The inflammation that causes laryngitis can be caused by many things. Usually, it is a short-term problem caused by a viral infection, but it can also be a short or long-term problem due to overuse or irritation of the vocal cords; for example from speaking or shouting a lot or from exposure to irritants like cigarette smoke or stomach acid reflux.  

Symptoms of Laryngitis   

The symptoms of laryngitis can vary in severity and duration, depending on the underlying cause. Common signs and symptoms include:  

  • Hoarseness: When the vocal cords are inflamed or swollen, they can’t move as effectively to create sound, leading to hoarseness, the main symptom of laryngitis. Your voice may sound raspy, strained, or weak, making it difficult to speak normally 
  • Loss of Voice: In some cases, laryngitis can temporarily cause you to lose your voice altogether, making it challenging to speak audibly or at all 
  • Sore Throat: The inflammation in the larynx can cause throat discomfort, pain, or a scratchy sensation 
  • Dry Cough: Laryngitis may accompany a dry, persistent cough, which can further irritate the vocal cords 
  • Throat Irritation: You may experience a feeling of something stuck in your throat or the need to clear your throat frequently

If you have laryngitis caused by a viral infection, you will most likely have a mild fever and feel unwell, perhaps with other accompanying symptoms like a runny nose, headaches or muscle aches if the virus affects more than just your voice box. Please note that you should seek emergency medical attention if you are experiencing difficulty breathing.  

What to do if you have laryngitis  

Losing your voice can be very alarming (and frustrating!). It will usually settle within a couple of weeks with supportive treatment after identifying and treating the underlying cause. 

Below are also some simple measures you can take at home to help settle your symptoms:   

  • Hydration: Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids to maintain the lubrication of the vocal cords and prevent dryness  
  • Vocal Rest: If you experience hoarseness or any signs of vocal strain, give your voice a break by refraining from excessive talking or whispering. Patients are often surprised to learn that whispering is actually more stressful on your voicebox than talking!    


How to reduce irritation of your vocal cords 

Incorporating these preventive measures into your daily routine, even when you don’t actively have laryngitis, can help minimise the risk of developing vocal cord irritation and maintain vocal health. 
  • Proper Vocal Technique: Learn and practice proper vocal techniques to help project your voice to minimize strain on the vocal cords, mainly if you regularly do a lot of public speaking, presentations - or singing! 
  • Avoid Irritants: Limit exposure to irritants that can inflame the larynx, such as smoke, allergens, and pollutants. If you're a smoker, consider accessing support for quitting to protect your vocal health 
  • Humidify the Air: Use a humidifier or vaporiser to add moisture to your home or workspace air. It helps prevent dryness in the throat and keeps the vocal cords hydrated. Air conditioning can make the air very dry!  
  • Avoid Vocal Abuse: Refrain from excessive throat clearing, coughing, or using your voice when strained or fatigued. These actions can irritate the vocal cords and exacerbate laryngitis symptoms  
  • Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and manage stress levels 
  • Seek Treatment for Acid Reflux: If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or experience recurring acid reflux, seek treatment. 

However, if your symptoms do not settle within a couple of weeks with the measures above, it is important to consult a doctor to look for other causes of your hoarse voice to ensure you have the correct diagnosis and treatment to help you get back to normal. In rare cases, a persistent hoarse voice can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, so it is important to get checked out if it doesn’t go away.  

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Information provided by:

Dr Emma Warner headshot

Dr Emma Warner

OT&P Healthcare

Please note that all medical articles featured on our website have been reviewed by qualified healthcare doctors. The articles are for general information only and are not medical opinions nor should the contents be used to replace the need for a personal consultation with a qualified medical professional on the reader's medical condition.