Laryngitis is a common condition that causes inflammation and irritation of the voice box (larynx). It can make speaking, swallowing, and breathing more difficult. Laryngitis is typically caused by overuse or misuse of the voice, excessive coughing, or viral infections. Let’s take a closer look at what laryngitis is, its symptoms, contagiousness, and how to find relief.
What Is Laryngitis?
Laryngitis refers to swelling and inflammation of the larynx, also known as the voice box. This small organ contains the vocal cords which vibrate to produce sound when we speak or sing.
When the larynx becomes inflamed, the vocal cords swell and cannot vibrate properly. This results in temporary hoarseness or complete loss of voice.
Laryngitis has several potential causes:
- Viral infection – Viruses like colds and flu can cause laryngitis.
- Voice misuse – Yelling, screaming, or overusing vocal cords.
- Environmental irritation – Breathing in smoke, dust, and fumes.
- Gastroesophageal reflux – Stomach acid backing up and irritating the larynx.
- Fungal infection – Rare cause, seen in those with weakened immune systems.
The most common cause of short-term laryngitis is a temporary viral infection. Chronic cases are often due to excessive voice use or acid reflux problems.
What Are The Symptoms Of Laryngitis?
The hallmark symptom of laryngitis is hoarseness or complete loss of voice. Other associated symptoms can include:
- Sore, dry, scratchy throat
- Pain or irritation when speaking or swallowing
- Frequent throat clearing
- Coughing or breathiness when trying to talk
- Tight, constricted sensation in the throat
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Low-grade fever (with viral infection)
Symptoms typically get worse with prolonged talking or singing. The degree of hoarseness varies from slight raspiness to being unable to produce sound. It often worsens over several days before improving.
Is Laryngitis Contagious?
Viral laryngitis can be moderately contagious depending on the causative virus. Colds and flu are often behind short-term contagious laryngitis. The viruses spread through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or touching shared surfaces.
Bacterial laryngitis following a streptococcal infection can also be contagious. Good hygiene like hand washing, avoiding shared cups and utensils, and staying home when sick reduces transmission risk.
However, laryngitis caused by overuse of the voice, acid reflux, or fungal infections is not contagious. Pay attention to other symptoms and recent exposures to assess if your laryngitis may be transmissible to others.
How To Cure Laryngitis?
Most cases of laryngitis are short-lived and resolve with conservative treatment:
- Rest your voice – Minimize talking and whispering; communicate via writing. Stop smoking.
- Humidify air – Breathe in steam; use a humidifier. Moisture soothes inflamed tissues.
- Drink fluids – Stay well hydrated. Warm broth or tea can be soothing. Avoid irritants like alcohol and caffeine.
- Honey/lemon – Helps coat and soothe sore throat; adds moisture.
- Saltwater gargle – Rinses away mucus; reduces swelling.
- Lozenges – Temporarily eases pain and irritation in throat.
- Antibiotics – If caused by a bacterial infection like strep, antibiotics prescribed by a doctor speed healing.
- PPI medication – If due to acid reflux, drugs reduce stomach acid production.
- Steroids – For severe swelling, steroid inhalers or pills may be given.
Most viral laryngitis resolves within 7-10 days with voice rest and supportive care. See an ENT immediately if you have trouble breathing or swallowing.
In summary, laryngitis is swelling and inflammation of the vocal cords in the larynx, often due to viral illness, voice strain, or chronic acid reflux. The main symptoms are hoarseness and loss of voice.
Mild cases can be managed with rest, hydration, and humidification. Seek medical treatment if severe pain, trouble breathing, or symptoms last over two weeks. Proper treatment relieves discomfort and allows your voice to recover.
A: No, they are different conditions. Strep throat is a bacterial throat infection while laryngitis is inflammation of the vocal cords, usually due to viruses.
A: In extremely rare cases, permanent damage to the vocal cords can occur. But for most people, voice rest allows laryngitis to heal fully within 1-2 weeks with no permanent effects.
A: Honey, lemon, licorice root, and anti-inflammatory foods like ginger, garlic, and turmeric may provide relief from laryngitis symptoms. Stay hydrated with warm broths and teas.
A: Yes, while less common than in adults, viral infections can cause laryngitis in children. The same symptomatic treatment applies. Seek medical attention for breathing difficulties.
A: Most laryngitis resolves on its own with conservative care. Hospitalization is only required in rare cases where swelling obstructs breathing, or for underlying conditions.