What is laryngitis?

What is laryngitis?

What is laryngitis?

Laryngitis refers to when the vocal cords or voice box in the throat become swollen and irritated. It can happen suddenly, getting worse within the first three days before going away by itself in one to two weeks[1].

The symptoms of laryngitis can include a sore throat, a hoarse or croaky voice, losing your voice, a cough that won’t go away, and the need to frequently clear your throat. If a child has laryngitis, they may also have a high temperature of 38 degrees or above, a decreased appetite and, rarely, difficulty breathing.

It is possible to treat laryngitis yourself at home without needing to see a GP by making sure you drink lots of fluids and speak as little as possible so as not to strain your voice. You should not smoke or drink too much alcohol or caffeine, and avoid spending time in places that are smoky or dusty. To help soothe your sore throat, you can take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol, and your local pharmacist may be able to suggest an effective cough syrup or similar remedy such as Ultra Chloraseptic’s soothing throat spray. You can also gargle salt water, although this is not recommended for children[1].

But what causes this illness, is it infectious and just how common is it? Keep reading to learn more about laryngitis.

What causes laryngitis?

In most cases, laryngitis develops when you have a viral infection, such as a cold or the flu. It can also be linked to pharyngitis and tonsillitis. Laryngitis can also be caused by damage to your larynx, for instance if you have strained your voice.

It can occasionally be caused by allergies to dust and fumes, or if you have had a cough for a long period of time. Sometimes, laryngitis can even be caused by acid reflux – when the acid in your stomach rises up into your throat[2].

Is laryngitis infectious?

Laryngitis is not always infectious. However, it can be spread from one person to another when it’s caused by an infection. 
You can reduce your chances of developing laryngitis in a number of ways, such as by making sure you have your annual flu vaccination. You should also practise good personal hygiene, like washing your hands regularly, especially before and after eating, and after you’ve been to the toilet[1].

You can also minimise your chances of getting ill by avoiding people with respiratory infections, such as colds or the flu, and avoiding irritants, such as dust or smoke. You should also keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum and, if you smoke, try to give up[1].

It can also help to refrain from clearing your throat, as this can irritate the larynx, and you shouldn’t shout or sing loudly for long periods of time[2].

How common is laryngitis?

Most adults develop laryngitis every couple of years, and some people are more prone to suffering from this condition than others.

For the majority of people, laryngitis is a temporary condition which improves by itself within a couple of weeks. This is known as acute laryngitis. If the symptoms last longer than three weeks, this is considered to be chronic laryngitis[1].

Although laryngitis can go away by itself, if your symptoms persist and have not improved after two weeks, or if it is painful or difficult to swallow, it’s a good idea to see your GP. They will be able to examine your throat, and you may be prescribed antibiotics. You may be referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist if you keep getting laryngitis.


[1] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/laryngitis/

[2] https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/ears-nose-and-throat/laryngitis/