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Quick Facts

Laryngitis

By The Manual's Editorial Staff,

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Your larynx (also called your voice box) contains your vocal cords. It's located in your throat at the top of your windpipe (trachea).

What is laryngitis?

Laryngitis is inflammation (swelling) of your larynx.

  • Laryngitis is usually caused by a virus

  • You may be hoarse or lose your voice

  • Resting your voice, drinking lots of fluids, and avoiding things that irritate your throat (like smoking) help you get better

What causes laryngitis?

Laryngitis that lasts less than 3 weeks is usually caused by:

  • A cold (most common cause)

  • Any infection that makes you cough a lot

  • Overuse of your voice (talking or singing a lot)

  • An allergic reaction

  • Breathing in things that irritate your throat, such as cigarette smoke

Laryngitis that lasts longer than 3 weeks may be caused by irritation from:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux, when food and stomach acid flow back up into your throat

  • A long-lasting cough

  • Bulimia, an eating disorder in which people force themselves to eat and then throw up their food

  • A tumor in your voice box

What are the symptoms of laryngitis?

Symptoms of laryngitis are:

  • A change in your voice

  • Losing your voice

  • A throat that tickles, feels raw, or needs to be cleared a lot

Sometimes, depending on what caused your laryngitis, you may also have:

  • Fever

  • Trouble swallowing

  • A sore throat

How can doctors tell if I have laryngitis?

Doctors listen to your voice when you speak. They can tell that you have laryngitis from your voice.

If you have laryngitis for 3 weeks or more, you may need a more detailed exam. Your doctor may look in your throat with a mirror or tube-like camera to check your larynx and be sure your symptoms aren't due to an abnormal growth.

How do doctors treat laryngitis?

Your doctor may ask you to:

  • Rest your voice by not talking much or at all

  • Use cough drops

  • Drink lots of water and other fluids

  • Breathe in steam

  • Stop smoking, if you smoke

Try not to whisper, shout, or use your voice too much because this can make your laryngitis worse.

If your laryngitis is caused by another disease, such as gastroesophageal reflux, bulimia, or a growth on your larynx, your doctor will treat that disease.