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Key facts

  • Laryngitis is when your voice box (larynx) becomes inflamed, and your vocal cords become swollen.
  • Symptoms of laryngitis include a low, hoarse voice, difficulty speaking, sore throat, mild fever and an irritating cough.
  • Laryngitis is commonly caused by a viral infection, or by straining and overusing your voice.
  • Most people recover from laryngitis without treatment.

What is laryngitis?

Laryngitis occurs when your voice box (larynx) becomes inflamed, and your vocal cords become swollen and can't vibrate properly. This will cause your voice to sound hoarse (rough or scratchy) or you might lose your voice. Most people recover from laryngitis without any medical treatment.

What are the symptoms of laryngitis?

The symptoms of laryngitis include:

  • low, hoarse voice
  • difficulty speaking
  • sore, dry or tickly throat
  • mild fever
  • irritating cough

Laryngitis is often part of another illness such as a cold, so there may also be other symptoms such as:

If your voice is hoarse, or if you’ve lost your voice, it may get worse at first and last for up to a week after other symptoms are gone.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes laryngitis?

Laryngitis is commonly caused by a viral infection, such as a cold or flu. Bacterial infection may also cause laryngitis, although this is rare. COVID-19 may also lead to laryngitis and a hoarse voice. You can also get laryngitis if you strain or overuse your voice by yelling or after long periods of talking, shouting or singing.

Laryngitis is said to be chronic (long term) when it lasts for more than 3 weeks. Chronic laryngitis is usually caused by:

When should I see my doctor?

Because laryngitis will usually get better on its own, most people don’t need to see a doctor for treatment. If you have trouble breathing, your lymph nodes are swollen or your symptoms last more than 10 days, see your doctor.

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ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How is laryngitis diagnosed?

Your doctor will probably ask you a few questions to find out the cause of your laryngitis. They may order some tests, or refer you to a specialist if they suspect anything serious.

How is laryngitis treated?

Short-term laryngitis doesn’t usually need treatment. As the cause is often viral, you won’t need antibiotics (as antibiotics do not treat virus infections). You can use paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin to help with symptoms such as a headache, fever and sore throat.

You can help your voice recover by:

  • drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol
  • avoiding smoking and exposure to cigarette smoke
  • gargling with warm, salty water or sucking a lozenge
  • resting your voice by talking as little as possible and avoiding shouting
  • avoiding whispering, as this puts more strain on your voice than normal speech
  • inhale steam to help a blocked nose
  • avoid nasal decongestants (these make your throat drier)

If your symptoms haven't improved after 2 weeks, see your doctor as you may need medicine.

Can laryngitis be prevented?

Laryngitis can’t be fully prevented, but you can reduce your chances of getting laryngitis by not yelling, singing loudly or overusing your voice, and by not smoking.

Complications of laryngitis

Laryngitis usually goes away on its own and doesn’t cause complications. If your laryngitis lasts for more than 2 weeks, you should see your doctor to make sure you don’t have a more worrying cause for your laryngitis.

Resources and support

For more information about laryngitis see NPS Medicinewise.

Visit Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to read more on how to manage colds and flu in babies and children.

Before you take a medicine, you can search by active ingredient or brand name, on the healthdirect Medicines search feature.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2023

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