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Laryngitis

Laryngitis is the inflammation of the larynx (voice box). It can either be acute or chronic, and infectious or noninfectious, but most commonly it will resolve itself after a week.

  1. Causes hoarseness, coughing and a sore throat
  2. Can occur due to smoking or vocal strain
  3. In most cases laryngitis does not require treatment

If you are concerned about laryngitis symptoms, particularly if they have lasted for more than a week, you can use our private online video consultation service to speak to a doctor. Click below to book an appointment convenient for you.

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Description

What is laryngitis?

Laryngitis is a condition characterised by inflammation of the larynx, and it can be exacerbated by vocal strain, smoking and drinking alcohol.

What causes laryngitis?

In most cases, laryngitis is caused by a viral infection such as a cold or flu, or due to slight damage to the larynx as a result of shouting. Other causes are the parainfluenza virus and adenoviruses. Bacterial and fungal infections may also trigger the condition. If you strain your voice for a sustained period, the vocal cords can become inflamed as they vibrate at a faster rate than they normally would.

What symptoms does laryngitis cause?

The symptoms of laryngitis tend to come on quite strongly within a period of two to three days, and consist of difficulties speaking, a sore throat, hoarseness, a persistent cough and a mild fever. It is also possible for laryngitis to cause breathing difficulties, although this is more common in children as their windpipes are narrower. 

It's difficult to assess the prevalence of laryngitis because it isn’t typically reported. However, in the US, it accounts for between 1-2% of all patient visits to primary care, and between 1999-2005 the weekly incidence rate in the UK was 23 per 100,000. 

Complications are rare due to the fact that laryngitis is self-limiting. It's possible to permanently damage the vocal cords if they aren’t given sufficient time to recover. Chronic laryngitis can lead to a complete loss of voice, a permanent cough and even airway obstruction. However, none of these complications are common.

How can I prevent laryngitis?

It's not usually possible to prevent laryngitis, because it's a very common viral infection. However, there are measures you can take to reduce the likelihood of developing the condition. Getting the annual flu vaccine in autumn is probably the most effective prevention method. It can also be helpful to practise good hygiene, avoid potential irritants such as smoking and drinking alcohol, and raise your head during sleep to prevent the possibility of your larynx being affected by acid reflux.

If you wish to speak to a doctor about laryngitis, you can book an appointment using our private online video consultation service. Appointments can be made at a time most suitable for you. Our prescribers will be able to issue advice about how to help your larynx recover, and whether you require antibiotics for a bacterial infection. They can also refer you to a specialist, should you need further attention. 

Page last reviewed:  12/06/2020
Diagnosis and treatment

How is laryngitis diagnosed?

Laryngitis can normally be diagnosed from an assessment of symptoms by a doctor. The hoarseness of the voice is the most common symptom of laryngitis, accompanied by a sore throat and a persistent cough.

Will I need tests?

You may need tests if a doctor suspects that laryngitis is a by-product of a more serious condition, or if they want to establish a more definitive diagnosis. Laryngoscopy (looking at the back of the throat using a light and a mirror) is one technique that a doctor may employ to see if there is any damage to the larynx. They may also decide to take a biopsy, by removing a small tissue sample and examining it under a microscope.

What will a doctor normally advise?

A doctor will normally recommend measures you can take to aid your recovery. They may suggest that you stop smoking or drinking alcohol, as these are triggers. A prescriber will also suggest drinking lots of fluids, and gargling with a warm saline solution (salt mixed with water) to soothe the throat. Using your voice sparingly, and taking painkillers to alleviate any pain that is affecting the throat, can also help. It's best to avoid dusty rooms, and a dehumidifier may help to reduce the presence of airborne irritants in the home.

What treatments are there for laryngitis?

Treatments for laryngitis generally focus on facilitating the recovery process, which usually takes around a week. There are a number of home remedies for the condition, such as the use of a warm saline solution to gargle, taking lozenges and using paracetamol or pain killers. If laryngitis is the result of a bacterial infection, a course of antibiotics may be required. Laryngitis can be caused by an allergy, in which case antihistamines should be taken, and the substance causing the allergy should be avoided.

Page last reviewed:  12/06/2020
Questions and Answers

How is tendonitis treated?

In most cases, laryngitis can be treated by taking precautions which allow the larynx to recover, without the need for medication. A doctor may suggest not smoking or drinking alcohol, soothing the throat with lozenges and a warm saline solution (salt water), as well as taking pain killers. If laryngitis has been caused by a bacterial infection, you may need a course of antibiotics.

What treatments are there?

Treatments will usually consist of alleviating the symptoms of laryngitis. Treatment for chronic and acute laryngitis is similar, provided that it is not due to a bacterial infection. The vocal cords need to heal over a period of time, and effective measures include taking lozenges, gargling a saline solution, not smoking or drinking alcohol and resting. 

If a bacterial infection is present, the antibiotic issued will depend on the specific type of bacteria causing it. If laryngitis has caused lasting damage to the voice box, speech therapy may be considered.

Can I consult a doctor about laryngitis online?

Yes. You can book an appointment at a convenient time for you using the panel below. You will then be able to consult with a doctor via our secure online video consultation service. Our prescribers will be able to advise you on good practices to help the larynx recover. 

Should you need antibiotics, you can get a prescription and purchase treatment from our website. The medication will be shipped to your door within one working day, or you can request an e-prescription to use at your local pharmacy.

Page last reviewed:  12/06/2020

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