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What is Acute Laryngitis?

By Carol Kindle
Updated May 17, 2024
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Acute laryngitis is a short-term inflammation of the larynx region of the throat. Since vocal sounds originate in the larynx, one symptom of laryngitis is hoarseness or loss of the voice. Acute laryngitis is most often caused by a virus, but can also be caused by allergies, smoking, or overuse of the voice.

The larynx is one portion of the air passageway that connects the nose and mouth to the lungs. Located in front of the esophagus, the larynx is protected by nine rings of cartilage. It starts at the back of the tongue and extends down the front of the neck. The larynx is divided into an upper half and lower half by two sets of vocal folds or vocal cords. As air passes over these vocal cords, they vibrate and produce sound.

When a patient develops acute laryngitis, there is irritation and pain in the tissues of the larynx. There may also be swelling of the vocal folds, which prevents them from vibrating. Patients may either be hoarse or unable to make any sounds at all from the vocal cords.

Viruses, such as those that cause the common cold, are most often the cause of acute laryngitis. It may also be caused by smoking, allergies, or even gastroesophageal reflux disease. Diagnosis is made by taking a patient history and examining lifestyle factors. Identification of possible causes will determine how the laryngitis is treated.

If a virus is suspected as the cause, based on whether the patient has other symptoms, viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics. The patient infected with a virus must wait for the symptoms to go away on their own. If the patient smokes or breathes secondhand smoke, efforts should be made to eliminate that behavior.

Treatment of acute laryngitis is usually limited to care that can be given at home to ease the symptoms. Patients may find relief by keeping the tissues of the throat moist with throat lozenges or by using a humidifier. Drinking plenty of fluids, such as herbal tea with honey, may help soothe the irritation in the throat. Anti-inflammatory medications may also help relieve pain and swelling.

Patients should rest and refrain from using the voice at all. Efforts should be made to communicate in writing rather than by speaking or even whispering. An episode of acute laryngitis should be temporary and should not last for more than two weeks. If the patient experiences symptoms beyond two weeks, he should contact a physician.

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Discussion Comments
By SteamLouis — On Mar 14, 2012

@feruze-- I recommend gargling with salt water. This helped a lot with my acute laryngitis symptoms. I just took some warm water and put salt in it. I let the salt dissolve in the water and then gargled with it several times ever day. Salt helps kill bacteria and I think it helps the throat heal faster.

If you don't like the idea of salt water, you could also ask your doctor to prescribe a magic mouthwash for you. This is a kind of mouthwash that they mix for you at the pharmacy depending on what your doctor has prescribed. They can put anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers in it. I think this will make your throat feel a lot better.

And the most basic thing to do, is to not try to talk until your voice is back. You will just make it worse if you push it before your throat is ready.

By bear78 — On Mar 14, 2012

@burcinc-- I'm down with acute laryngitis too. My doctor thinks it's allergy related. I've been taking my allergy medication but my throat is killing me. The bad part is that I'm part of the chorus and need to get my voice back as soon as possible!

Does anyone know of any laryngitis home treatments that will soothe my throat and help me get my voice back? I'm already having hot tea and cough drops. It doesn't seem to be doing anything though.

By burcinc — On Mar 14, 2012

I guess I should have read this article several weeks ago! I have had laryngitis for about three weeks. I gave several speeches two weeks ago and I thought that was the reason for losing my voice. But it just got worse and worse every day. I couldn't speak anymore and it hurt so much to even swallow.

I finally went to the doctor two days ago and he diagnosed me with acute laryngitis due to acid reflux. I knew I had some acid reflux problems but I had no idea that this could cause problems in my throat!

It turns out it does, The acid which comes up from the stomach damages and irritates the back side of the vocal cords. This is why I'm in so much pain!

Anyway, the doctor put me on a proton pump inhibitor to treat my laryngitis. It's a medication, commonly called Prilosec or Zantac on the market. This prevents my stomach from producing too much acid. I might not be able to talk much for another week or so but at least I know what's going on now.

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