Hoarseness: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Many things can cause your voice to become rough, raspy, or hard to hear. Having a cold or a sinus infection, talking too loudly or yelling, smoking, or breathing dry air can cause a hoarse voice. You also can have voice problems from pollution and allergies. Sometimes, acid from your stomach can back up into your throat—called acid reflux—and change your voice. In some cases, a problem with the voice box, or larynx, causes hoarseness.

Rest and home care may be all you need if you have a hoarse voice.

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?

  • Follow your doctor's advice about how much to talk. Use email or write notes when you can to rest 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.
  • Talk to your doctor about treatment for allergies if you do not already treat them.
  • Follow your treatment plan for acid reflux (if you have the condition):
    • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
    • Limit or stop eating foods that make your acid reflux worse. These may include tomatoes, spicy foods, and chocolate.
    • Limit or stop drinking alcohol and drinks that have caffeine, such as coffee, tea, and colas.
    • Raise the head of your bed a few inches. Place a brick or a foam wedge under the mattress at the head of the bed. This will help keep stomach acid out of your throat at night.
  • When you do talk, do not whisper. It can be hard on your voice.
  • Use a vaporizer or humidifier to add moisture to your bedroom. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep your throat moist. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can make your voice raspy and can increase your risk of throat cancer. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • To keep your voice from getting hoarse in the future, try not to talk loudly or shout, such as at sports events.

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 trouble swallowing.
  • You have new or worse pain.

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.