What Is Viral Laryngitis?

Smokers who are diagnosed with viral laryngitis should kick the habit.
Throat lozenges can help keep the throat lubricated when a person has viral laryngitis.
A sore throat is a common symptom of viral laryngitis.
A doctor should always be consulted if a child experiences a swollen larynx.
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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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Viral laryngitis is a medical condition that causes inflammation of the vocal cords. This may cause fever, sore throat, or difficulty swallowing. Other symptoms may include a weak or hoarse-sounding voice. Since this condition is caused by a virus and not bacteria, antibiotics are not an effective treatment method. Treatment options for this condition may include resting the vocal cords, using sore throat lozenges, or taking over-the-counter pain medications.

The first symptom of viral laryngitis is often voice changes, such as the development of a hoarse-sounding voice. In some cases, the voice may become so weak that it is difficult or even impossible to speak. Fever and cough may be present in some patients. Some patients may feel as if there is a lump in the throat, causing frequent attempts at clearing the throat.

Diagnosis of viral laryngitis can generally be made at the doctor's office. A complete medical history will be taken, and then the doctor will look at the throat. The physical exam along with the medical history are usually all that is needed in order for the doctor to make an accurate diagnosis.

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Viral laryngitis typically disappears on its own without any specific medical treatment, although there are a variety of home treatment methods that may help to ease some of the symptoms. If the patient is a smoker, he will likely be advised to stop smoking, at least until symptoms have improved. Second-hand smoke may also aggravate the condition and make symptoms worse, so whenever possible the patient should stay away from places where people are smoking.

Resting the voice is very important during recovery from this condition so that no additional strain is placed on the vocal cords. Many people who have this condition may be tempted to whisper, thinking that this will help reduce stress on the vocal cords. Instead, this can actually cause symptoms to worsen. When it is absolutely necessary to speak, it is better to use a normal speaking voice than to whisper.

Artificial air conditioning should be avoided as much as possible while recovering from viral laryngitis. A cool-mist humidifier may help to relieve some symptoms. Inhaling steam from a hot shower or a bowl of hot water is often helpful as well. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen may be used to alleviate pain and fever associated with viral laryngitis, and throat lozenges or hard candy may help to keep the throat lubricated.

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Discuss this Article

SarahSon
Post 7

I know there are different causes of laryngitis, but I know where mine comes from. I work with the youth at our church and get in at least one or two weeks of camp every summer.

By the end of the week, I have completely lost my voice. It must be from all the extra talking, and screaming from cheering on my team all week long.

This has happened to me every year, and it usually takes a few days before my voice comes back. My throat usually feels a little bit sore and swollen too, but isn't usually as bad as it sounds.

I am not the only one this happens to. A lot of the kids sound worse than I do, but they also do a lot more yelling than I do throughout the week!

golf07
Post 6

@myharley - Because this type of laryngitis is a viral infection, an antibiotic will not make a difference. Viral laryngitis can be contagious though.

I find it similar to getting a cold. Prescription medications don't help, and I am usually contagious when around other people.

You are fortunate you got over your laryngitis so quickly. I seem to come down with this every year, and my voice is affected for about 2 weeks.

I try to talk as little as possible during this time, but that is much easier said than done. I have also heard that whispering can be just as hard on your throat as talking.

The very best thing you can do is totally rest your voice. Drinking hot tea and sucking on some lozenges helps some, but the best thing is not talking. At least I get a few good books read when I get laryngitis.

myharley
Post 5

When I had viral laryngitis, I actually sounded much worse than I felt. Most of my job is on the phone, and if I can't talk, I don't get much work done.

This was frustrating because the doctor said there was nothing he could do for me and it just needed to run its course.

He said I could take something for the pain, but my throat really wasn't even sore. I just didn't have a voice. I was able to catch up on some work projects that didn't involve the phone, but it was at least three days before my voice was strong enough again.

Some of my co-workers kept asking - is laryngitis contagious? Some of them wanted some time off and others didn't want to miss work because of not having a voice.

seag47
Post 4

Laryngitis hurts in a different place a normal sore throat. When I had it, my throat hurt further down in my neck.

This made coughing and swallowing extra painful. Every time I coughed, I felt like I was blowing out a vocal cord.

I had to take ibuprofen for the pain. I couldn't be without it while I was sick, because the soreness was just too much to bear.

I'm glad that my grandmother didn't catch it while she was taking care of me. I know that bacterial laryngitis is contagious, but is viral laryngitis contagious?

StarJo
Post 3

@orangey03 - Since very cold air is often dry, I would think it could worsen your laryngitis. Using your humidifier in your warm room was a good idea.

I have had viral laryngitis before, and I stayed indoors and breathed in hot steam. I made a pot of peppermint tea, and while it was brewing, I hung my head over the pot and breathed deeply. It soothed my throat right away.

Staying safe and warm in bed is the best treatment for viral laryngitis. There is nothing like giving yourself a break to cure what ails you.

orangey03
Post 2

I got laryngitis after going to a football game and cheering loudly in the cold air. I was with a group of friends, and we got pretty excited and loud.

I awoke with a hoarse voice the next day. It actually sounded pretty cool. I tried to sing with it, but I burst into a fit of coughing.

I could talk a little bit, but every time I tried, my statement ended in a cough. That made my throat hurt, and every time I swallowed, I felt a lump in it.

I took acetaminophen to lessen the swelling, and it helped ease my pain. I also plugged in the humidifier and breathed the moist air while lying in bed resting.

I avoided going outside while I was sick, because it was very cold. My mother has always told me that cold air could make me sicker. Does anyone know if this is true?

Oceana
Post 1

I developed viral laryngitis overnight one time. I felt fine the night before, but when I awoke in the morning, I had no voice! I could not even get a sound to come out.

I was supposed to sing that night with my band, so they had to perform without me. Luckily, we had three other singers in the band, so they managed alright.

I originally thought about going anyway, just to be in the crowd and support them. However, I decided that being in that bar would have only made me worse. At the time, they allowed smoking inside, and all that smoke trapped in the building would have made me so much sicker.

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