The best treatment for laryngitis depends on its cause, and there are a few possibilities when it comes to that. What are the symptoms, and what can you do to feel better?
What is laryngitis?
The larynx is a small tube located at the bottom of the windpipe. It serves several purposes. Besides allowing us to speak, the larynx also plays a role in getting oxygen into the windpipe and closing the windpipe when you eat or drink. When the larynx is inflamed because of laryngitis, it can't vibrate properly, which is why your voice will become damaged, or will disappear entirely. Depending how bad the inflammation is, you may also have pain when you swallow and even some trouble breathing. Laryngitis can be acute, in which case it is usually over within two weeks, or chronic. It can be caused by a virus and often strikes in combination with a cold or the flu or by other factors such as smoking, singing or yelling. Acid reflux and allergies are other possible causes of laryngitis.
When to see a doctor
Most people with a sore throat don't have symptoms for long enough to warrant seeing a doctor. If you are in severe pain, have trouble swallowing, or have had laryngitis for more than two weeks, seeing a doctor is advisable. Young children with symptoms of laryngitis should also see a doctor, particularly if they are in real pain and are drooling. The diagnostic process will include an examination of your throat, as well as feeling the neck for any lumps and swelling, and questions about the symptoms you have been having and for how long. You'll usually be sent away with some treatment advice and perhaps a prescription (we'll get to that in the next section), but people who have been having laryngitis for longer than two weeks and who don't react to treatment may be sent on to a specialist. Chronic laryngitis can be caused by more serious problems, including nerve damage.
Laryngitis is most commonly caused by a cold or the flu. If you have a fever along with a sore, swollen throat, you may feel rather bad. There isn't much you can do to get rid of a flu or even a cold, but laryngitis does go away with them without any special treatment most of the time. There are still many things you can do to feel more comfortable and to help the inflammation clear up. The steps you can take include:
- Gargling with a saline solution (a teaspoon or so of salt in a luke-warm glass of water).
- Drinking lemon tea with honey.
- Steaming over hot water, with herbs if you want to.
- Avoid smoking and a smokey environment.
- Rest as much as possible if you have the flu, and rest your voice.
- Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.
- Laryngitis caused by the flu or a cold is contagious. Wash your hands frequently, and don't share a glass of water with your kids. You should also (obviously) cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing and encourage infected kids to do the same.
- Ibuprofen is the best pain killer for laryngitis if you are allowed to take it and it works for your body. Ibuprofen reduces a fever and fights pain, but it also brings down the inflammation in your throat and will help you to swallow more easily.
Antibiotics or steroids like Prednisone are sometimes prescribed for laryngitis as well, but your doctor is most likely to send you packing with the same advice we gave above, as well as the instruction to come back if the laryngitis does not go away within a few weeks. If singing caused your laryngitis, you'll probably received the tip to see a vocal coach as well you can sign without putting your voice box under that much pressure all the time.