Laryngitis is a throat infection characterised by an irritated or swollen voice box or vocal cords. It usually self-limiting and goes away by itself within 1 to 2 weeks.
Check if you have laryngitis
Laryngitis usually comes on suddenly and gets worse during the first 3 days.
The main symptoms are:
- a hoarse (croaky) voice
- sometimes losing your voice
- an irritating cough that does not go away
- always needing to clear your throat
- a sore throat
Children can also:
- have a high temperature of 38C or above
- be off their food or drink
- have difficulty breathing (but this is rare)
Laryngitis is often linked to other illnesses, such as colds and flu, so you may also have other symptoms.
How you can treat laryngitis yourself
Laryngitis is usually a self-limiting throat infection, it goes away on its own after 1 to 2 weeks so you wouldn’t usually need to see a practitioner.
- try to speak as little as possible
- drink plenty of fluids
- keep the air moist by putting out bowls of water – central heating and air conditioning make the air dry
- gargle with warm salty water (children should not try this)
- do not strain your voice by talking loudly or whisper
- do not smoke
- do not spend time in smoky or dusty places
- do not drink too much caffeine or alcohol since they cause dehydration
A pharmacist can help with laryngitis
They can give advice and suggest treatments, including:
- paracetamol or ibuprofen
- cough syrup to help with your cough
- solutions to gargle or lozenges for the pain
See a healthcare practitioner if:
- your symptoms do not improve after 2 weeks
- it’s very painful or it’s difficult to swallow
- you keep getting laryngitis or voice problems
What happens at your appointment
He or she will try to work out what has caused your laryngitis.
- look inside your throat using a small mirror
- wipe a cotton bud around the back of your throat for testing
- arrange a blood test
- refer you to an ear, throat and nose specialist (if you keep getting laryngitis)
- prescribe antibiotics (if your laryngitis is caused by an infection)
What causes laryngitis
Laryngitis usually happens when you have an infection from a virus, such as cold or flu. A flu vaccination will help prevent you from getting the flu.
Other things that cause laryngitis include:
- allergies to things like dust and fumes
- acid from your stomach coming up your throat (acid reflux)
- coughing over a long time
- clearing your throat all the time