Learning About Laryngitiss
Health Writer Louise Atkinson looks at this condition.
WHAT should you do when you lose your voice? A croaky voice is a common and unwelcome symptom of many winter coughs and colds.
The problem very often passes, soothed by hot drinks and a rest from too much talking. I asked Dr Luke Powles, Associate Clinical Director at Bupa UK, for advice about when a simple croaky voice might be laryngitis, and when to seek medical help.
He told me laryngitis is the medical term for inflammation of the larynx (the voice box).
“It is usually caused by an infection from cold or flu viruses, acid reflux or allergies to things like dust and fumes,” he said.
A lost voice normally comes in a bundle with other symptoms, which can include a sore throat, an irritating cough and possibly a mild fever, too.
Don’t be surprised if you have a headache, swollen glands, a runny nose and a general tired and achy feeling as well.
Dr Powles says most cases of laryngitis will clear up within a week and don’t necessitate a GP appointment.
“But if you are having difficulty breathing (breathing rapidly, shortness of breath or noisy breathing)
If your problems persist, see your GP
then do seek urgent medical attention,” he warns.
For most of us, a pharmacist can help with over-the-counter remedies, such as paracetamol and cough syrup.
You can speed your recovery by avoiding smoking and smoky environments, and drinking plenty of fluids. Gargling with warm salty water or sucking throat lozenges may help to soothe your throat.
Resting your voice is important, too, but don’t switch to whispering instead of talking – it is actually more painful, as it makes the larynx work harder.
“If your symptoms don’t improve after two weeks, they keep coming back, or you’re having difficulty swallowing, do see your GP,”
Dr Powles advises.
“A GP can help explore if there is any underlying cause for your symptoms and can advise on suitable treatment for you if needed.”
You might be given a throat swab or blood test to check for possible viral, bacterial or fungal infection, and will possibly be prescribed antibiotics (if your doctor thinks you have a bacterial infection).
In extreme repeating cases, you might be referred to an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist.
Some chronic cases of laryngitis are triggered by a fungal infection such as thrush, which can strike if your immune system is weakened.
It can also be exacerbated by a common condition called GORD (gastro-oesophageal reflux disease), when acid rises up from your stomach into your throat to irritate your larynx. This can be treated with medication to reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces. ■