The larynx also referred to as the voice box, is an organ at the back of the throat. During laryngitis, the vocal cords become inflamed and swollen. It is usually due to a viral infection and goes by itself within 1-2 weeks. Other causes may be allergies or acid reflux, strain on your vocal cords, or bacterial infections.
The main symptom of laryngitis is a husky or hoarse voice, or losing your voice. People also have a sore throat and a bothersome cough that may cause you to clear your throat frequently. Younger children can have a fever, poor appetite and sometimes in rare cases they can have difficulty breathing.
You do not need to see your doctor as an adult if you have laryngitis. The symptoms usually go away within a couple of weeks. The pharmacist can advise you on simple painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen. Cough syrup and lozenges can sometimes help if you have a niggling cough or sore throat.
If your symptoms don’t improve after 2 weeks or you have recurrent laryngitis symptoms, then it’s important that you see your doctor. There may be other causes of sore throat or coughing, so if you think your symptoms are not caused by laryngitis alone, it is important to see your doctor. Some symptoms that could indicate other causes would include; if you have fevers, trouble breathing, you are finding it painful or difficult to swallow, you are vomiting, or have tender lumps at the back of your throat. Your doctor may consider prescribing antibiotics as well as doing more tests, like taking a sample from the back of your throat, taking some blood, or referring you to a specialist if required.
It is advised to drink plenty of fluids, use a humidifier or steam inhalation to reduce dryness in the throat. If you use your voice regularly (singing or teaching) then it is important to rest your voice, including avoiding whispering, as this can also strain your vocal chords. Gargling warm salty water to keep your cords moist and hydrated can also be helpful.