Acute Laryngitis

Acute Laryngitis

Acute Laryngitis

Laryngitis is an inflammation of your voice box (larynx) from overuse, irritation or infection.

Inside the larynx are your vocal cords — two folds of mucous membrane covering muscle and cartilage. Normally, your vocal cords open and close smoothly, forming sounds through their movement and vibration.

But with laryngitis, your vocal cords become inflamed or irritated. This makes the vocal cords swell, which distorts the sounds produced by air passing over them. As a result, your voice sounds hoarse. In some cases of laryngitis, your voice can become almost undetectable.

Laryngitis may be short-lived (acute) or long lasting (chronic). Most cases of laryngitis are triggered by a temporary viral infection and aren’t serious. Persistent hoarseness can sometimes signal a more serious underlying medical condition.

Acute laryngitis is probably the most common cause of hoarseness, which may persist for a week or so after other symptoms of an upper respiratory infection have cleared. The patient should be warned to avoid vigorous use of the voice (singing, shouting) until their voice returns to normal, since persistent use may lead to the formation of traumatic vocal fold hemorrhage, polyps, and cysts.

Although thought to be usually viral in origin, both M catarrhalis and H influenzae may be isolated from the nasopharynx at higher than expected frequencies. Despite this finding, a meta-analysis has failed to demonstrate any convincing evidence that antibiotics significantly alter the natural resolution of acute laryngitis.

Symptoms of laryngitis

The most common symptoms of laryngitis include:

  • weakened voice
  • loss of voice
  • hoarse, dry throat
  • constant tickling or minor throat irritation
  • dry cough

These symptoms are usually mild and can be treated by giving your voice a break. Drinking water or other noncaffeinated fluids can help lubricate your throat.

Risk factors

Risk factors for laryngitis include:

  • Having a respiratory infection, such as a cold, bronchitis or sinusitis
  • Exposure to irritating substances, such as cigarette smoke, excessive alcohol intake, stomach acid or workplace chemicals
  • Overusing your voice, by speaking too much, speaking too loudly, shouting or singing

Laryngitis in infants and children

Infants and children can be prone to laryngitis if they’re frequently around other children. Both viral and bacterial infections can spread quickly from child to child. Laryngitis can also develop if your child yells or sings a lot. This causes bumps to form on their vocal cords.

If you notice your child’s voice is hoarse or weak or they say that their throat hurts, make sure they rest their voice. Also, have them drink fluids to ease possible viral laryngitis. Laryngitis usually goes away within two weeks.

If your child’s symptoms don’t improve or become worse, take them to a doctor. A doctor can determine if other factors are causing the laryngitis or if antibiotics for a bacterial infection are needed.


Erythromycin may speed improvement of hoarseness at 1 week and cough at 2 weeks when measured subjectively. Oral or intramuscular corticosteroids may be used in highly selected cases of professional vocalists to speed recovery and allow scheduled performances.

Examination of the vocal folds and assessment of vocal technique are mandatory prior to corticosteroid initiation, since inflamed vocal folds are at greater risk for hemorrhage and the subsequent development of traumatic vocal fold pathology.

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