Laryngitis: Care Instructions

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Larynx and trachea in neck showing vocal cords in larynx, with detail of healthy vocal cords and inflamed vocal cords.

Your Care Instructions

Laryngitis is an inflammation of the voice box (larynx) that causes your voice to become raspy or hoarse. Most of the time, laryngitis comes on quickly and lasts as long as 2 weeks. It is caused by overuse, irritation, or infection of the vocal cords inside the larynx.

Some of the most common causes are a cold, the flu, or allergies. Loud talking, shouting, cheering, or singing also can cause laryngitis. Stomach acid that backs up into the throat also can make you lose your voice.

Resting your voice and taking other steps at home can help you get your voice back.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Rest your voice. You do not have to stop speaking, but use your voice as little as possible. Speak softly but do not whisper; whispering can bother your larynx more than speaking softly. Avoid talking on the telephone or trying to speak loudly.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep your throat moist.
  • Before you use cough and cold medicines, check the label. They may not be safe for young children or for people with certain health problems.
  • Try to keep stomach acid from backing up into your throat. Do not eat just before bedtime. Reduce the amount of coffee and alcohol you drink, and eat healthy foods. Taking over-the-counter acid reducers can help when these steps are not enough. In some cases, you may need prescription medicine.
  • Try not to clear your throat. This can cause more irritation of your larynx. Take an over-the-counter cough suppressant (if your doctor recommends it) if you have a dry cough that does not produce mucus.
  • Use saline (saltwater) nasal washes to help keep your nasal passages open and wash out mucus and allergens. You can buy saline nose sprays at a grocery store or drugstore. Follow the instructions on the package. Or you can make your own at home. Add 1 teaspoon of non-iodized salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 2 cups of distilled or boiled and cooled water. Fill a squeeze bottle or neti pot with the nasal wash. Then insert the tip into your nostril, and lean over the sink. With your mouth open, gently squirt the liquid. Repeat on the other side.
  • Follow your doctor's directions for treating the condition that caused you to lose your voice. If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse pain.
  • You have trouble swallowing.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.