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.

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 does not 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.

Laryngitis usually goes away on its own after 1 to 2 weeks and you do not need to see a GP.

Do

  • try to speak as little as possible
  • drink plenty of fluids
  • keep the air moist by putting out bowls of water – central heating and air conditioning make the air dry
  • gargle with warm salty water (children should not try this)

Don't

  • do not talk loudly or whisper – both strain your voice
  • do not smoke
  • do not spend time in smoky or dusty places
  • do not drink too much caffeine or alcohol – they cause dehydration
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. Do not swallow it
  3. Repeat as often as you like

This is not suitable for younger children.

Speak to a pharmacist about your sore throat.

They can give advice and suggest treatments, including:

  • paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • cough syrup to help with your cough
  • solutions to gargle or lozenges for the pain

See a GP if:

  • your symptoms do not improve after 2 weeks
  • it's very painful or it's 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 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 for testing
  • arrange a blood test
  • refer you to an ear, throat and nose specialist (if you keep getting laryngitis)

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

Laryngitis usually happens when you have an infection from a virus, such as cold or flu. A flu vaccination will help prevent you getting flu.

Other things that 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
[Last reviewed 2017-12-21]