Laryngitis is a common problem in which the vocal cords inside the larynx are inflamed. The main symptom is a hoarse voice. This ranges from mild to complete loss of voice. There may also be some pain when speaking or swallowing. The causes include infection, overuse of the voice, inhaling smoke or fumes, or much more rarely a tumour in the throat.

A common cold or flu can sometimes spread to the vocal cords. Other infections include tuberculosis, bronchitis, or sinusitis. Viruses that tend to cause croup in children may cause laryngitis in adults. Excessive use of the voice is common in certain jobs, such as teaching or public speaking. It can also result from cheering at sports events, singing, or shouting. Causes of chronic laryngitis include:

  • other chronic disorders, such as allergies or sinusitis,
  • breathing mostly through the mouth, smoking,
  • alcohol abuse
  • constant exposure to dust or other irritants.
If you have had a cold or have overused your vocal cords, the main treatment is resting your voice. In severe cases, you should communicate with pencil and paper. Other steps you can take include:
  • use a vaporizer to moisten the air,
  • avoid air conditioning,
  • drink plenty of non alcoholic or decaffeinated fluids, and
  • avoid smoke and other irritants.
For chronic laryngitis, treatment won't work unless you remove the underlying cause. If you rest your voice, laryngitis will normally heal itself within a week. If it lasts longer, consult your doctor.

Further information

This article published on
08 February 2006

Next review date 2/1/2013


Treatment and drugs
Treatment and drugs
Treatment and drugs

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Eyes, ears, nose, throat

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