What is Laryngitis?

By  , Expert Content
Jul 11, 2011

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Laryngitis is the medical term used to indicate inflammation or infection of the larynx (or the voice box). Based on the duration of symptoms laryngitis is categorised as acute or chronic.

  • Acute laryngitis: Laryngitis that starts all of a sudden and lasts no more than 2 weeks is called acute laryngitis.
  • Chronic laryngitis: When symptoms of laryngitis last for 2 weeks or longer, or if you have recurrent symptoms then it is considered chronic.

What causes laryngitis?

Laryngitis is caused because of several conditions. Some of the common causes include:

  • Upper respiratory infection such as cold or flu (it is the most common cause).
  • irritation because of allergy, excessive smoking or alcohol.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD). Laryngitis because of reflux is known as reflux laryngitis.
  • Overuse of voice such as by professional singers or teachers or cheering at a sports event.
  • Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Symptoms of laryngitis

In acute laryngitis the symptoms begin suddenly and may progress over a period or two to three days, then improve gradually. Most people start to feel better within a week. Common symptoms of laryngitis include:

  • hoarseness or change of voice
  • difficulty in speaking
  • sore throat
  • tickling sensation in the throat (may be due to reflux laryngitis)
  • fever (usually is mild to moderate)
  • headache
  • irritating cough
  • breathing difficulty. It occurs because of swelling of the larynx. It is common in young children who have smaller, narrower windpipes and not so common in adults.

Change of voice is the major symptom in chronic laryngitis. In chronic laryngitis hoarseness may recur often. Chronic laryngitis is often common problem in people who overuse their voice and are not able to rest their voice, such as professional singers or teachers. Changed voice or hoarseness may develop slowly and can last for weeks or even months. Occasionally a person may develop lasting hoarseness as a result of permanent damage to the larynx.


Acute laryngitis usually improves in a few days (about 2 weeks) in most people. Treatment of laryngitis includes self care at home and medications.

Self care for laryngitis includes:

  • Rest to voice. This is especially important if the symptoms start after using the voice more than normal (such as excessive shouting in a football match or singing).
  • Taking adequate fluids such as oral rehydration solution, fresh juice, soups, coconut water to keep yourself hydrated
  • Symptomatic treatment such as acetaminophen or tepid sponging can help to control fever. Medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin to reduce other symptoms such as body pain, sore throat, and headache. Gargling with lukewarm water for sore throat. Use of nasal decongestants such as pseudoephedrine or antihistamines (cetrizine, chlorpheniramine maleate) can help to relieve nasal symptoms.
  • Avoiding smoking and alcohol.

Medical treatment of Laryngitis includes:

  • Antibiotics in cases with bacterial infection. Most people with laryngitis do not an antibiotic as it is most often caused because of viral infection.
  • Corticosteroids such as prednisolone in people with severe symptoms. Steroids have good anti-inflammatory effects and hence are effective to reduce vocal cord inflammation.



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