Laryngitis 

Introduction 

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The larynx

The larynx, or voice box, is a tube-like structure found at the entrance of the windpipe (trachea). The lump at the front of your throat, commonly known as the Adam’s apple, is your larynx.

The larynx has three main functions:

  • it helps channel oxygen into your windpipe when you breathe
  • it acts like a valve, closing off the windpipe when you swallow to prevent food or liquid entering your airways
  • it contains the vocal cords which vibrate as air passes through them, producing the sound of your voice

Laryngitis is inflammation of the larynx (voice box). In most cases, it will get better without treatment in about a week.

Symptoms of laryngitis include:

As laryngitis often gets better quickly without treatment, you normally only need to see your GP if the symptoms are particularly severe or they last longer than three weeks.

Read more about the symptoms of laryngitis and diagnosing laryngitis.

Why it happens

In most cases, laryngitis is caused by a viral infection (such as a cold), or straining your voice. In these cases, most of the symptoms will usually pass within a week. This is known as acute laryngitis.

Laryngitis can occasionally have other causes, such as smoking, alcohol misuse or an allergic reaction, and the symptoms can last much longer. This is known as chronic laryngitis.

Read more about the causes of laryngitis.

How laryngitis is treated

Most cases of laryngitis get better without treatment within a week. To help your vocal cords heal, it is important not to smoke, to avoid smoky environments, drink plenty of fluids (particularly water) and try to rest your voice as much as possible.

In some cases, it may be possible to treat the underlying cause of laryngitis. For example, if the symptoms are due to an allergic reaction, you may be able avoid the substance you are allergic to, or take medication to help control your body's response to the substance.

Read more about treating laryngitis.

Can laryngitis be prevented?

It's not always possible to prevent laryngitis, as it is often caused by common infections like cold and flu that are difficult to avoid. If advised by your GP, however, having the annual flu vaccine can help reduce your risk.

There are also a number of other things you can do to help reduce your chances of developing the condition. For example, you can avoid straining your voice, avoid smoking and ensure you don't drink more than the recommended limits of alcohol consumption.

Read more about preventing laryngitis.



Page last reviewed: 18/09/2013

Next review due: 18/09/2015

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