Laryngitis

Laryngitis is when your voice box or vocal cords in the throat become irritated or swollen. It usually goes away by itself within 1 to 2 weeks.

Check if you have laryngitis

Laryngitis usually comes on suddenly and gets worse during the first 3 days.

The main symptoms are:

  • a hoarse (croaky) voice
  • sometimes losing your voice
  • an irritating cough that doesn’t go away
  • always needing to clear your throat
  • a sore throat

Children can also:

  • have a high temperature of 38C or above
  • be off their food or drink
  • have difficulty breathing (but this is rare)

Laryngitis is often linked to other illnesses such as colds and flu, so you may also have other symptoms.

If you’re not sure it’s laryngitis check other sore throat symptoms.

How you can treat laryngitis yourself

Laryngitis usually goes away on its own after 1 to 2 weeks and you don’t need to see your GP.

There are things you can do to help you get better.

Do

  • try to speak as little as possible
  • drink plenty of fluids
  • keep the air moist by putting out bowls of water or using a humidifier - central heating and air conditioning make the air dry
  • gargle with warm salty water
How to gargle with salty water
  1. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water - warm water helps salt dissolve.
  2. Gargle with the solution then spit it out - don’t swallow it.
  3. Repeat as often as you like.

This isn’t suitable for younger children.

Don’t

  • talk loudly or whisper - both strain your voice
  • smoke
  • spend time in smoky or dusty places
  • drink too much caffeine or alcohol - they cause dehydration

How your pharmacist can help with laryngitis

You can get paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease the pain from the sore throat, or cough syrup to help with your cough.

Your pharmacist can also recommend special solutions to gargle with or lozenges for the pain.

See your GP if:

  • your symptoms don’t improve after 2 weeks
  • your symptoms are severe, for example it’s very painful or difficult to swallow
  • you keep getting laryngitis or voice problems

Get an urgent GP appointment if your child has difficulty breathing.

What happens at your appointment

Your GP will ask you about your symptoms and if and how much you smoke and drink. They will try to work out what has caused your laryngitis.

They may:

  • look inside your throat using a small mirror
  • wipe a cotton bud around the back of your throat
  • arrange a blood test

If your laryngitis is caused by an infection, your GP might prescribe antibiotics.

Your GP might refer you to an ear, throat and nose specialist if you keep getting laryngitis.

What causes laryngitis

Laryngitis usually happens when you have an infection from a virus, for example cold or flu. Getting a flu vaccination can help you avoid the flu virus.

Other things that can cause laryngitis include:

  • allergies to things like dust and fumes
  • acid from your stomach coming up your throat (acid reflux)
  • coughing over a long time
  • clearing your throat all the time

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.