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Chest and Respiratory Problems

Laryngitis

Prevention - Home Treatment - When to Call a Health Professional

Laryngitis is an infection or irritation of the voice box (larynx). The most common cause is a viral infection such as a cold. Other causes include allergies; excessive talking, singing, or yelling; cigarette smoke; and the backflow (reflux) of stomach acid into the throat. Heavy drinking or smoking can lead to chronic laryngitis.

Symptoms include hoarseness or loss of voice, the urge to clear your throat, fever, tiredness, throat pain, and cough.

Prevention

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To prevent hoarseness, stop shouting or talking a lot as soon as you feel minor pain. Give your vocal cords a rest.

Home Treatment

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  • Your voice box will usually heal in 5 to 10 days. Medication does little to speed recovery.

  • If hoarseness is caused by a cold, treat the cold See Colds). Hoarseness may last up to 1 week after a cold goes away.

  • Rest your voice. Talk as little as possible. Don't shout or whisper, and avoid clearing your throat.

  • Stop smoking and avoid other people's smoke. See Be Tobacco-Free for tips on quitting.

  • Humidify your bedrooms or your whole house if possible.

  • Drink 8 to 12 glasses of water a day. You are drinking enough if you are urinating more often than usual.

  • To soothe the throat, gargle with warm salt water (5 ml or 1 tsp of salt in 240 ml or 8 oz of water), or drink weak tea or hot water with honey and/or lemon juice in it. Do not give honey to children younger than 1 year of age.

  • If you suspect that problems with stomach acid reflux may be contributing to your laryngitis, see Heartburn on See Heartburn.

When to Call a Health Professional

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  • If you develop signs of a bacterial infection (See Viral or Bacterial?).

  • If hoarseness persists for 3 to 4 weeks.

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