What is Laryngitis?
You might think your larynx, also known as your voice box, just helps you to speak. In reality, the larynx helps keeps you alive. The main function of the larynx is actually to protect the airways, ensuring that no foreign objects can enter the trachea. It prevents choking, regulates the airways and also allows you to speak. So, when you’re diagnosed with laryngitis, the outcome can be severe.
Laryngitis is swelling and inflammation of the larynx. The condition ranges from acute laryngitis to chronic laryngitis and typically affects individuals ages 18 to 40. However, laryngitis has been known to affect individuals as young as three years old. It is suspected that approximately 21 percent of the population will have laryngitis at some point in their lifetime (x).
Many viral infections cause sore throat, and laryngitis is definitely one of them. The discomfort from a sore throat can vary, but a sore throat is clearly the first indication of a viral or bacterial infection. Fifty to 95 percent of sore throats in adults lead to some sort of infection. Although sore throats may also be caused by more mild conditions such as allergies, it is important to see your doctor to rule out certain causes of your sore throat (x).
A dry throat is different than a sore throat. A dry throat is characterized by a scratchy or dusty feeling. It is typically an annoying and discomforting sensation, whereas a sore throat is painful. A dry throat is reported in both acute and chronic laryngitis. However, with acute laryngitis, symptoms are generally resolved within two weeks (x).
It’s no surprise that laryngitis causes a hoarse voice, since laryngitis is the swelling and inflammation of the voice box. In general, a hoarse voice is caused by some form of laryngitis, unless otherwise caused by a tumor on the voice box (x).
Loss of Voice
Losing your voice with laryngitis doesn’t just happen. White blood cells invade the site of infection to remove pathogens, which adversely affects vocal cord vibration. Then phonation (sound) threshold pressure increases, so it makes adequate phonation increasingly difficult. In turn, it may eventually make it impossible to create sound. If you notice your voice is hoarse, you should expect that losing it completely is not far behind (x).
A sore throat, dry throat, hoarse voice and loss of voice might all seem similar, but there are even more symptoms associated with laryngitis. You may also experience a low grade fever, persistent coughing, the constant need to clear your throat or swollen glands. In addition, since laryngitis is usually accompanied by another infection such as the common cold, other symptoms may include headache, runny nose, pain while swallowing or fatigue. Monitor whether you have one or all of these symptoms and talk with your doctor as soon as possible.
Causes of Laryngitis
Vocal strain, which is any type of difficulty or adverse activity on the vocal cords, is a common cause of laryngitis. It can simply be caused by one’s environment. For example, most general purpose buildings are not designed with acoustics in mind, so your voice has to work harder to produce sound. Temperature can also adversely affect your vocal cords and inflict vocal strain (x).
A viral infection is caused by the presence of a virus in the body. A viral infection is a much more common cause of laryngitis than a bacterial infection, although both are possible. An upper respiratory infection, such as croup cough, is a common cause of laryngitis. Epiglottis is a rare, yet serious bacterial infection that can also cause laryngitis (x).
Chronic sinusitis is an inflammation of the lining of the sinuses. Since nasal drip is a common characteristic of chronic sinusitis, it is the constant trickling in the back of the throat which can over time cause hoarseness, irritation and eventually laryngitis (x).
Most individuals are aware of acid reflux and agree that it’s excruciating. Acid reflux is when the contents of the stomach travel up the esophagus and potentially into the throat. Not only does it leave a terrible taste in the mouth, but it also causes the constant presence of acid in the throat that hinders the vocal cords and causes laryngitis (x).
There are several things that can affect your vocal cords/voice box and trigger laryngitis. For example, smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke regularly can further cause it. Exposure to any polluted air or uncontrollable allergies may also increase laryngitis.
Laryngitis Remedies and Supplements
Ginger is known to be a common supplement for a dry or sore throat. Many throat lozenges will use ginger as a natural soothing ingredient. For laryngitis, sucking on ginger candy (or lozenges) or drinking ginger tea makes a significant difference (x).
Garlic is a go-to remedy for laryngitis. It contains anti-microbial properties that help fight against all inflammation-causing bacteria. You may chew on a piece of raw garlic and swallow the juices. The recommended dose of garlic is 650 mg daily (x).
This has long been a natural remedy for sore and dry throats, including laryngitis. Peppermint also acts as an expectorant and may relieve allergy symptoms that cause it. The recommended dosage of peppermint extract is 700 mg once or twice daily.
Warm Salt Water
Salt is a natural remover of certain bacteria that may be within the throat. Adding salt to warm water and gargling makes an excellent remedy to laryngitis because the warm water soothes the throat while the salt detoxifies. Just be sure not to add too much salt, which may conversely irritate the throat (x).
Resting Your Voice
Yelling, talking or singing too much can actually strain your vocal cords. It is important to give vocal cords a break and avoid performing these activities for a short time. Also speak softly, but do not whisper. Whispering actually strains the voice more than normal talking does (x).
Other Remedies and Supplements
You may also treat your laryngitis much like a sore throat for your common cold. This includes any warm liquids — especially tea, which may soothe the throat and open the sinuses to prevent sinus drip. In addition, moisture is best for the condition. This may involve taking a warm shower or using a humidifier at night while you sleep to keep the air moist and prevent your throat from getting scratchy.
The Bottom Line
Laryngitis is nothing to fret over, until you can’t speak. Not having a voice can be pretty inconvenient. However, in most cases laryngitis is acute and short-lived. You may experience a dry or sore throat, hoarseness, loss of voice, persistent cough, slight fever or constant need to clear your throat, but typically these will all subside. There are several natural throat relieving remedies that you may try before prescription medications are needed. Still, even when using natural remedies and supplements it is important to consult your doctor first before trying anything. The last thing you would want is a permanently damaged voice.