Laryngitis refers to an inflammation or irritation of the larynx
(voice box) that leads to hoarseness or a "loss of voice''. This is
a temporary condition that resolves itself when the inflammation
decreases. The voice box is located at the top of the trachea
(windpipe). It consists of 2 vocal cords that vibrate when air
passes over them. During laryngitis, these cords become swollen and
this prevents them from producing sound well. Laryngitis is commonly
caused by viral or bacterial infections like the common cold,
bronchitits, influenza, or pneumonia. Other factors may also include
trauma (e.g., inhalation of extremely hot or cold air); overuse
(e.g., public speaking, cheering, or singing); smoking; polyps or
tumors on the vocal cords; allergies; and respiratory infections of
childhood like croup and epiglottitis.
Symptoms may include:
• Hoarse voice
• Dry, brassy cough
• Nasal congestion
• Sore, scratchy throat
• Low grade fever
• Fatigue and lethargy
WHAT YOUR DOCTOR CAN DO:
• Diagnose the disease by asking about your symptoms, doing a
physical exam, and ordering laboratory blood tests and x-rays of the
• Examine swollen vocal cords with a special mirror.
• Swab the throat with a cotton applicator to obtain a sample for a
throat culture. This helps to determine if the cause is bacterial or
viral. If bacterial, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
• Try not to speak; this will allow the vocal cords to rest and
• Use a cool-mist humidifier to soothe the irritation. Remember to
clean the unit every day.
• Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) for minor body aches and fever.
• Do not give aspirin to children with a fever or viral illness.
This may provoke Reye's syndrome (a severe brain infection).
• Decongestants and expectorants may help to loosen and thin
secretions. Talk to your doctor about the correct dosing for your
• DO NOT smoke if you are sick, or let anyone else smoke, around
your sick child.
• DO NOT use mouthwashes that contain alcohol. Alcohol can irritate
the tissues in the larynx.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT:
• In some cases, simply not talking or whispering for a few days
will resolve the condition.
• Most people completely recover within 1 to 2 weeks.
• Some complications include chronic laryngitis and laryngeal cancer
CALL 1061 OR SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL
ASSISTANCE If you or your child develops symptoms of
laryngitis or if the symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks you or
your sick child suffers difficulty in breathing, shortness of
breath, drooling, or difficulty swallowing.