The most common cause of short-lived (acute, lasting less than 3 weeks) laryngitis is
Viral infection of the upper airways, such as the common cold
Laryngitis also may accompany bronchitis or any other inflammation or infection of the upper airways. Excessive use of the voice, allergies, inhalation of certain medications, or irritants such as cigarette smoke can cause acute or persistent (chronic) laryngitis. Bacterial infections of the larynx are extremely rare.
Symptoms of laryngitis are an unnatural change of voice, such as hoarseness or a decrease in volume, or even loss of voice that develops within hours to a day or so. The throat may tickle or feel raw, and a person may have a constant urge to clear the throat.
Symptoms vary with the severity of the inflammation. Fever, a general feeling of illness (malaise), difficulty in swallowing, and a sore throat may occur in severe infections.
The diagnosis of laryngitis is based on the typical symptoms and voice changes.
In chronic laryngitis, the doctor looks down the throat with a mirror or a thin, flexible viewing tube, which shows some reddening and sometimes some swelling of the lining of the larynx.
Because cancer of the larynx may cause hoarseness, a person whose symptoms persist more than a few weeks should be evaluated for laryngeal cancer.
Treatment of viral laryngitis depends on the symptoms. Resting the voice (by not speaking), taking cough suppressants, drinking extra fluids, and inhaling steam relieve symptoms and help healing. Whispering, however, may irritate the larynx even more. Stopping smoking and treating bronchitis, if present, may alleviate laryngitis.
An antibiotic is given only for infection caused by bacteria.
Depending on the possible cause, specific treatments to control gastroesophageal reflux, bulimia, or drug-induced laryngitis may be helpful.