Laryngitis - what it is and how to treat it

on Fri 14 Jan

 

At this time of year, I occasionally see patients presenting with

 

  • A scratchy raw throat which feels dry
  • A hoarseness which means it is difficult or impossible to speak
  • A dry cough for no apparent reason
  • Throat pain
  • A regular need to clear the throat

 

These are all indicators for Laryngitis which is an inflammation of the Larynx – or Voice Box - can be caused in several ways:

 

  1. Through overuse of the voice
  2. From smoking heavily
  3. From a virus – the most common cause but least infectious
  4. From bacteria which is more contagious and requires antibiotics
  5. From a fungal infection which is also more contagious than that caused by a virus and requires antibiotics
  6. It can also be a symptom of Diphtheria, Tuberculosis, Syphilis or an Autoimmune Disorder

 

If your laryngitis is caused by an infection you may also notice

  • Bad breath
  • Excess mucus
  • A low grade fever

 

Home based treatment for most cases of Laryngitis

In most cases laryngitis will clear up on its own within three weeks and you will probably not need to consult your GP. To help the symptoms during this time you should

 

  • Rest your throat until it feels normal
  • Humidify the air
  • Cut back on coffee and alcohol which can dehydrate you
  • Try to drink at least 2 litres of water every day as this will make any mucus less thick#
  • Avoid violently clearing your throat as this will contribute to the inflammation
  • Avoid decongestants
  • Rinse your mouth out with a saline solution or over the counter mouthwash
  • Be mindful about reducing your risk of being in contact with any potential of an upper respiratory infection

 

Treatment for chronic Laryngitis

Laryngitis is normally regarded as chronic if it goes on beyond 3 weeks and,  in fact, may last months.

 

This normally happens because damage has been caused to the larynx or because the larynx continues to be overexposed to:

 

  • Having a sinus infection that has gone on for a long time
  • An excess of smoking or drinking
  • Workplace chemicals of fumes
  • Reflux
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Steroid inhaler medication
  • Overuse of the voice through singing or shouting

 

This form of laryngitis is not contagious but needs treatment of nodules/polyps can grow on the vocal cords which makes it more difficult to speak and can sometimes become malignant.

 

When urgent treatment is needed

You should seek urgent medical attention should any of the following arise:

 

  • You are having trouble breathing
  • You feel as if your throat is closing
  • You can’t swallow
  • You are drooling
  • You are struggling to breathe without sitting upright.

 

I hope that has been helpful.

 

 

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