Laryngitis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Is It Contagious?

Laryngitis is a throat infection, specifically of the larynx and vocal chords. It’s a common, rather mild illness and can be treated at home when it is mild. So back to the illness, what are the symptoms and treatment?

Laryngitis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Is It Contagious?
Laryngitis: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Is It Contagious?

Definition: what is laryngitis?

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Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx and commonly of the vocal chords and this prevents the vocal chords from moving and vibrating freely in the airway. Therefore, the voice becomes quite raspy and quiet.

Laryngitis can be split up into two forms, mild and chronic. It starts off as mild and becomes chronic when it lasts for more than three weeks.

What causes laryngitis?

Mild laryngitis is by far the most common form. Most of the time, it occurs suddenly and disappears after a few days or weeks. It is generally due to an occasional abuse of the vocal chords, a viral infection (such as the cold or the flu), or bronchitis, pneumonia or a case of the measles.

Concerning chronic laryngitis, it is generally caused by prolonged exposure to irritating factors such as toxic vapours, allergenic substances, cigarette smoke, gastro-oesophageal reflux problems, chronic sinusitis, alcohol, excessive and repeated stress on the voice or again, use of inhaled corticosteroids.

Laryngitis can possibly be caused by a bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection, cancer, radiotherapy treatment or again, vocal chord paralysis caused by a stroke or an injury.

Symptoms: how to recognise laryngitis

Generally, people with laryngitis have a very hoarse voice and may even lose their voice for a while. The patient can also experience:

- tickling or pains in the throat

- difficulties to swallow

- a dry cough

- a feeling of having a lump in the throat

The person also needs to clear their throat and breathing difficulties can appear. A mild fever (less than 38.5°C) can appear.

Treatment: how is it dealt with?

When laryngitis is caused by a harsh stress on the vocal chords, a few days of rest can ease symptoms and when it is caused by a bacterial infection, the doctor can prescribe antibiotics. These however, are generally useless because most laryngitis is viral.

For mild laryngitis, normally in children, the doctor can prescribe corticoids which lessen the inflammation of the larynx. In most cases, the illness heals quickly with the help of treatment, but it is possible to speed up the recovery by taking some simple measures at home:

- breath humid air in the shower, above a hot bowl or get a humidifier

- don’t overuse your voice

- suck on lozenges or gargle with salty water

It is also important when possible, to eliminate the cause of laryngitis (heartburn, tobacco use, alcoholism).

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