What causes laryngitis?

Reviewed by Theresa H. Care Delivery Manager & Family Nurse Practitioner

Time saver 3 min read

Most of us rely heavily on talking to communicate with others. But what happens when you open your mouth to speak and are met with raspy consonants, whispery vowels or (even worse) silence. How are you going to give that big presentation you’ve been preparing for at work or reprehend your toddler who’s running towards the couch with an uncapped sharpie in hand? Losing your voice can be really frustrating. If you’re dealing with this common vocal condition you’re probably wondering what causes laryngitis and how long you’ll be sentenced to silence. Let’s learn more about this quiet condition.

Why do you get laryngitis?

Laryngitis occurs when your larynx or voice box, becomes inflamed or irritated. That’s why a bout of laryngitis often accompanies or follows a cold or other viral upper respiratory infection. Talking a lot, yelling and general overuse of your vocal cords can also bring on laryngitis as can allergies, acid reflux and smoking. Basically, anything that causes your larynx to become irritated and inflamed can also lead to swollen vocal cords. The result? Your voice sounds weak, hoarse or whispery. In more extreme cases, you may not be able to vocalize at all.

What does laryngitis feel like?

If you come down with laryngitis your throat may feel dry, raw or sore. Throat symptoms are often also accompanied by a tickling sensation and dry cough. Thankfully, laryngitis itself isn’t contagious. But, the respiratory viral infection that’s likely behind it is, so it’s important to cover your coughs and wash your hands frequently. Most cases of acute laryngitis last between three to seven days.

Laryngitis healing and self-care tips

Getting your voice back as soon as possible is the name of the game with laryngitis. And to do that, you need to rest your voice. We know it’s hard, but you really do need to practice being silent. Try not to talk or even whisper as both will strain your vocal cords. When you must communicate, text or use a pen and notepad.

Tips to help soothe laryngitis symptoms

  • Quiet inflammation and pain – Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce swelling and relieve pain and discomfort.
  • Soothe soreness – Suck on throat lozenges (honey and lemon work well!) to soothe a sore throat.
  • Hydrate – Drink warm or cool liquids to moisten vocal cords.
  • Embrace steam – Inhale steam from a hot shower (add a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint oil for added relief).

Is a nagging cough making your laryngitis worse? You may need a prescription for cough suppressant medication. We’ll review your health history to determine the best treatment for your symptoms.

– Theresa H., FNP-C for Virtuwell

Laryngitis don’ts

  • Don't clear your throat or cough – Both actions can stress vocal cords
  • Don't breathe through your mouth – Your nasal passages act as a natural filter and humidifier for your throat
  • Don't smoke or be around smoke – Smoking dries out your throat and irritates vocal cords


Laryngitis treatment online

When your voice isn’t at 100%, it can make simple things a lot more challenging. Get your voice back, faster with online care from Virtuwell. We’ll provide a personalized treatment plan to help heal your vocal cords so you can get back to talking, laughing, singing, cheering and feeling more like yourself, faster. Oh, and don’t worry – no video or voice needed to get the care you need.

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