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When the larynx (voice box) and the surrounding area become inflamed, the vocal cords no longer vibrate normally. Your voice becomes hoarse, husky, weak, or off-pitch and it may be painful to speak or swallow. Acute (short-term) laryngitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection as a result of the common cold, bronchitis, or allergies. Chronic (long-term) laryngitis can be caused by heavy smoking, vocal strain (too much talking, singing, or shouting), violent coughing, chemical irritants, or esophageal reflux (the backwash of acidic stomach contents).
The symptoms of laryngitis include:
- Low, raspy voice and hoarseness
- Dry cough (no mucus)
- Sensation of dry throat
- Little or no pain
- Weakening voice as the day progresses
If you are having great difficulty swallowing or breathing or if you are coughing up blood, get emergency care immediately!
See Your Doctor If...
- You have a high fever or are coughing up yellow, green, or blood-tinged mucus.
- You have hard, swollen lymph glands in your neck or you feel like you have a "lump" in your throat.
- If the hoarseness lasts more than a week in children or more than two weeks in adults.
- Rest your voice as much as possible
- Avoid breathing irritating smoke, dust, or fumes
- Avoid smoking and places with smoke.
- Avoid clearing your throat.
- Decrease your activity. Avoid becoming overheated or fatigued.
- Get as much sleep as possible.
- Drink extra fluids (water, fruit juice, tea). Avoid drinking alcohol.
- Take hot steamy showers or steam baths and breathe in the moist air or breathe through a hot, moist towel.
- Suck on throat lozenges, cough drops, or hard candy.
- Use a "cool mist" humidifier at home.
- Avoid breathing cold air.