Laryngitis! How to Treat and Prevent?
How to Treat Laryngitis
Laryngitis is the inflammation of the larynx (voice box). The most common causes are a viral infection or vocal strain, but it can also appear after a bacterial infection or other source of irritation.The swollen vocal cords inside the larynx leads to a hoarse sounding voice, or sometimes a complete inability to speak. Most cases of laryngitis resolve on their own within a week and appropriate home care can speed up the healing process. In rare cases, laryngitis is caused by a severe throat infection that requires medical attention.
Treating Laryngitis at Home
Rest your voice.Most cases of hoarseness are caused by talking too much, particularly if you have to constantly raise (strain) your voice to be heard — noisy restaurants/bars, concerts and industrial environments can easily trigger a short-term bout of laryngitis;however, laryngitis from overuse heals pretty quickly, so resting your voice for a day or two is often the most important first step in getting your voice back.
- If you find yourself at a noisy venue, either talk less or get closer to the ear of the person you're trying to converse with. Avoid shouting and having to repeat yourself.
- In addition to hoarseness or voice loss, other symptoms of laryngitis include: a dry throat, sore throat, a tickling sensation in the throat that triggers a dry cough, and mucous build-up in the throat.
Keep hydrated.Keeping yourself well-hydrated will keep the mucus membranes of your throat moist, which helps to reduce inflammation and discomfort. With less irritation, you'll find yourself coughing and clearing your throat less often — which are factors that can prolong bouts of laryngitis/hoarseness.Avoid carbonated water because it can further tickle your throat and trigger a coughing spell.
- Start with drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of purified water per day to rehydrate yourself and keep the mucus membranes of your throat/larynx moist. Dairy-based beverages can thicken mucus.Sugary drinks may increase mucus production and should be avoided.
- Consider warming some water (not too hot) to loosen nasal and throat congestion, adding a little honey and lemon. Honey can soothe a sore or irritated throat, while lemon juice is a mild antiseptic that can combat infections, as well as clear mucus from your throat.
Gargle with an antiseptic solution.Infections of the throat can also lead to laryngitis. Viral infections are the most common, although bacterial and fungal (Candida) infections can trigger hoarseness also.If you suspect your laryngitis is caused by an infection, then gargle with antiseptic solutions that are able to kill a variety of microorganisms. A 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water is effective against bacteria and some other microbes. Gargle for at least a minute each hour until the irritation/inflammation in your throat fades away and your voice returns to full strength.
- Other symptoms that may indicate your laryngitis is caused by an infection include: a mild-to-moderate fever, malaise (tiredness) and swollen lymph nodes or glands in or near your neck.
- Other antiseptic compounds that can be mixed in water and gargled include vinegar. Mix this into a solution of one part water to one part vinegar.
Suck on lozenges.In addition to drinking lots of water, sucking on mediated lozenges can also help keep the mucus membranes of your throat moist by stimulating saliva production.In addition, medicated lozenges (from a pharmacy) typically contain compounds that numb or dull a sore throat, which will make it easier to drink fluids and swallow food. Avoid sucking on candy because the sugar or sweetener may trigger more mucus production in your throat, forcing you to clear it more often.
- Choose lozenges with zinc, honey, eucalyptus and/or lemon for the most soothing effects on your throat membranes. Zinc is also a mild antiseptic.
- Ginger is also a great resource for a sore throat. Suck on pieces of dried or pickled ginger to moisten your throat and soothe the inflamed mucus membranes of the larynx.
- Though stinky breath may be a concern, garlic has antiseptic properties. Chew and swallow raw garlic and try adding extra garlic into your cooking.
Breath moist air.Run a humidifier to keep the air in your home and bedroom humid. If you don't have a humidifier, you can add moisture to the air by hanging up a wet towel, or heating wide pans of water.
Avoid whispering.This puts even more strain on your voice than normal speech. Instead, take a deep breath, then speak on the exhale in a relaxed voice.
Avoid throat irritants.While you are resting your voice and gargling with antiseptics, be careful not to breathe in or consume any throat irritants. Smoking, binging on alcohol, drinking lots of carbonated beverages, consuming sweet dairy products (such as milkshakes) and inhaling dust and fumes from household cleaners can all irritate the throat and make laryngitis worse.
- One of the first symptoms of throat cancer (caused by smoking or alcoholism) is a chronically hoarse voice. As such, if your hoarseness lasts for more than a few weeks despite resting your voice and gargling, then contact your doctor for a consult.
- Aside from overuse, infection and irritation, other causes of laryngitis include: allergic reactions, chronic acid reflux, an enlarged thyroid gland, chronic sinusitis and benign growths (polyps) on the vocal cords.
Getting Medical Treatment
Talk to your doctor about antibiotics.If you are unable to relieve your laryngitis with the above mentioned home remedies, then make an appointment with your family doctor. A severe sore throat, swollen mucus membranes that are streaked with white pus, fever and malaise are all signs of an infection.However, only bacterial infections are impacted by antibiotics, so your doctor will likely swab your throat and determine if the infection is bacterial, viral or fungal.
- If bacteria is the culprit (strep throat is a relatively common cause of laryngitis), then your doctor may prescribe a two week course of antibiotics, such as Amoxicillin or Erythromycin. Follow the doctor's instructions carefully when taking antibiotics. In particular, be sure you take the full course of antibiotics, even if you feel better. This ensures you completely eradicate the low levels of bacteria that will remain once you are feeling better; this bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics and become extremely difficult to treat later on.
- If you've had laryngitis for more than a few weeks and are a smoker, your doctor will likely refer you to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor), who may use a laryngoscopy — a small tube with a tiny camera to get a better look at the back of your throat .
Consider corticosteroids.If you have severe laryngitis that's not caused by bacteria and not helped by home remedies, then ask your doctor about the pros and cons of a short course of corticosteroids, such as prednisone, prednisolone or dexamethasone.Steroid medications are powerful and fast-acting anti-inflammatories that can reduce the swelling, pain and other symptoms in your throat. However, due to significant downsides, they are usually not recommended except as emergency treatments for people who must use their voices professionally.
- The downside of steroidal medications is that they tend to reduce immune system function, weaken tissues and cause water retention, which is why they are typically prescribed for short periods of time only.
- Corticosteroid medication comes in pills, injectables, inhalers and oral sprays, which are especially effective for quickly combating a bout of laryngitis.
Get any underlying conditions treated.As noted above, laryngitis is caused by a variety of diseases that affect the throat. For example, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) often triggers laryngitis because the stomach acid that flows up the esophagus irritates and inflames the throat and larynx.Thus, treating GERD with antacid and proton-pump medications will eventually clear up the laryngitis also. Similar approaches should be used for other conditions that trigger laryngitis, such as an enlarged thyroid gland, allergies, chronic sinusitis, bronchitis, benign vocal cord growths and throat cancer.
- Chronic laryngitis (hoarseness) from long-term smoking can clear up on its own after quitting, although it may take many months or even a few years for the vocal cords to become healthy again.
- If your child's laryngitis is caused by "croup," then see your doctor immediately for the appropriate medications. Croup narrows airway passages, causes difficulty breathing and leads to a barking-like cough. It can be life-threatening in rare circumstances.
QuestionWhat if my voice doesn't come back after a while?
Family Nurse PractitionerFamily Nurse PractitionerExpert AnswerFollow up with your primary care provider. If your laryngitis symptoms have not resolved after about 3 weeks, a consultation with an otolaryngologist is recommended and your primary care provider should refer you to one.Thanks!
QuestionHow long do I need to take the steroids for?
Family Nurse PractitionerFamily Nurse PractitionerExpert AnswerIt depends on what your doctor recommends. In most cases, it is not recommended to use corticosteroids for acute laryngitis.Thanks!
QuestionIs laryngitis contagious?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf it is bacterial, like strep throat, then it is contagious.Thanks!
QuestionIf I have laryngitis, should I take the contingency antibiotics and steroids that I have available?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTalk to your doctor before taking any medications for laryngitis.Thanks!
QuestionIs it safe for me to drink Calamansi juice when I have laryngitis?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt is safe, but it might make the aching of your throat worse, so I would avoid it.Thanks!
QuestionWhat can I do to get rid of the symptoms of laryngitis?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can try drinking tea mixed with honey and gargling saltwater. You can also try inhaling steam.Thanks!
QuestionWhat shall I do apart from hot drinks? Will steam inhalation help?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSteam inhalation will definitely help. You can do this by putting a towel over your head and inhaling the steam.Thanks!
QuestionCan I do a breathing treatment for laryngitis?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerA breathing treatment is effective for asthma, but not for laryngitis.Thanks!
QuestionCan I have cough syrup while I have laryngitis?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, you can.Thanks!
QuestionIs sipping honey after gargling saltwater okay?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, definitely, it actually helps soothe your throat. You can try lemon juice as well.Thanks!
- If a sore throat and coughing is prominent with your laryngitis, then consider taking some over-the-counter cough syrup twice a day for a few days. Eliminating the cough will reduce the amount of stress put on your throat and vocal cords.
- Contrary to popular belief, whispering does not rest your vocal cords. Instead, it's best to avoid talking when recovering from laryngitis. If you must vocalize, then use a soft voice instead of a whisper — it will be less irritating to your throat.
- Avoid dry places. Your throat needs moisture, so avoid dry places and consider using a humidifier in your bedroom at night.
- Seek immediate medical attention if your child makes noisy, high-pitched breathing sounds when inhaling (stridor), drools more than usual, has trouble swallowing, has difficulty breathing, or has a fever higher than 103º F (39ºC). These signs and symptoms may indicate croup and severe symptoms require medical attention.
- Seek immediate medical attention if you have trouble breathing, cough up blood, or have severe difficulty swallowing.
- Visit a doctor if you've lost your voice for more than a week, particularly if you experience severe throat pain and bleeding. It can be a sign of a serious infection or throat cancer.
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Video: Home Remedies for Laryngitis
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