What is the treatment for viral laryngitis?
- Not treating is an option, as laryngitis usually gets better within a few days.
- Have plenty to drink, as it is tempting not to drink very much if it is painful to swallow. You may become mildly dry (dehydrated) if you don't drink much. Mild dehydration can make headaches and tiredness much worse. Also, if your voice box (larynx) becomes dry, the inflammation gets worse. Chewing sugar-free gum can also help prevent your larynx from becoming dry.
- Paracetamol or ibuprofen will help to ease pain, headache and high temperature (fever). To keep symptoms to a minimum it is best to take a dose at regular intervals, as recommended on the packet of medication, rather than now and then.
- Aspirin gargles will do little to ease soreness in the larynx. This is because a gargle does not touch the larynx; it only touches the back of the throat. However, it may ease a sore throat if you have this together with laryngitis. (There is little research evidence to confirm that aspirin gargles are effective for sore throat. However, it is a popular treatment and may be worth a try.) If used, dissolve some soluble aspirin in water and gargle for 3-4 minutes. You can do this 3-4 times a day. Spit out the aspirin after gargling. (Note: you should not give aspirin to children aged less than 16 years.)
- Other gargles, lozenges and sprays which you can buy may help to soothe a sore throat. However, again, they will do little to help with soreness in the larynx. They tend to be expensive and may do little extra to ease symptoms than the above measures.
- Breathing in moisturised (humidified) air may help. The theory is that moisture in the airways may be soothing and may help to clear secretions. Humidifiers are available from most large pharmacies but can be expensive. Alternatively, you can place boiling water in a large bowl and then breathe in the steam. Pharmacies sell a variety of devices to do this in a more convenient way. The most simple is a steam cup, which is fitted with a lid and mask. You put the boiling water in a cup, put the lid on the top and breathe through the mask. Always be careful not to burn yourself with the boiling water.
- Avoid things which irritate your larynx. This includes cigarette smoke, caffeine and alcohol.
What about using or resting my voice?
If possible, rest your voice when you have laryngitis. If you overuse your voice when the vocal cords are inflamed, it may make the inflammation worse. It is unlikely to do any permanent damage but it may take longer for your normal voice to return. Resting the voice means not shouting, singing or talking for long periods. Quiet conversation is usually fine. A sighing soft speech is best rather than whispering until the laryngitis has gone. This is because whispering makes your voice box (larynx) work harder than soft sighing speech. Once you can hum comfortably, you can probably start talking normally again.
If you are a performer such as a singer, it can be a difficult decision as to when to start singing again. Singing too early, when symptoms are easing, may prolong the hoarse voice longer than if you rest it fully until symptoms have completely gone. There is no easy answer as to the earliest it is safe to sing without doing any more harm. A professional singer may wish to consult a speech therapist if a crucial decision is to be made about an important singing engagement.
Do I need an antibiotic?
Usually not. Laryngitis is usually caused by a virus. Antibiotics do not kill viruses; they only kill bacteria. Your immune system usually clears viral infections quickly. A more severe laryngitis is sometimes due to bacteria. An antibiotic may be advised if:
- The infection is severe.
- The infection is not easing off as expected.
- Your immune system is not working properly - for example:
Did you find this information useful?
- Reveiz L, Cardona AF; Antibiotics for acute laryngitis in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Mar 28 3:CD004783. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004783.pub4.
- Wood JM, Athanasiadis T, Allen J; Laryngitis. BMJ. 2014 Oct 9 349:g5827. doi: 10.1136/bmj.g5827.
- Feierabend RH, Shahram MN; Hoarseness in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2009 Aug 15 80(4):363-70.
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