A whispering, squeaking, hoarse voice usually means one thing: laryngitis. Typically lasting days or weeks, ordinary laryngitis is an inconvenience but not a life-threatening problem. Curious what to take for laryngitis? The best medicine for laryngitis may be in the cupboard, rather than at the pharmacy.
Laryngitis is an inflammation or swelling of the voice box (larynx). When a bout of laryngitis attacks, the vocal cords—folds in the larynx mucosa—become swollen. Normally, the vocal cords open and close very smoothly, producing sound through movement and vibration. When they become swollen, the sound produced by the air passing through the vocal cord is distorted, causing the patient’s voice to sound husky.
A fairly common condition, laryngitis usually occurs in children and the elderly because of their poor resistance. A person with laryngitis experiences hoarseness, loss of voice, and throat pain. Additional symptoms of laryngitis in adults may include pain from swallowing, fullness in the throat or neck, fever, swollen lymph nodes, or a congested or runny nose. Symptoms in infants or children, usually associated with croup, may include a hoarse laryngitis cough and fever.
It is recommended that adults see a doctor if they are in pain, hoarse for more than 2 weeks, coughing up blood, have a temperature above 103 °F, or have trouble breathing. Consulting a physician is recommended if a child is…
- Younger than 3 months old and has a temperature of 100 °F or higher
- Older than 3 months old and has a fever of 102 °F or higher
- Is having difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Is making high-pitched sounds when inhaling
- Is drooling more than usual
A doctor will examine the patient’s throat, take a culture, and use an endoscope, a narrow tube equipped with a camera. There may be a skin allergy test or an X-ray taken to rule out other issues.
Acute laryngitis typically clears up on its own within a few weeks. Laryngitis is termed chronic laryngitis when it lasts longer than 3 weeks. Chronic inflammation from laryngitis can cause the formation of nodules or polyps on the vocal cords.
Laryngitis in children can develop into croup, a narrowing of the airways, or epiglottitis, an inflammation of the flap at the top of the larynx that can be life-threatening. In adults, complications of laryngitis from GERD include pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, and vocal cord paralysis.
Causes of Laryngitis
Factors that can trigger laryngitis are upper respiratory infection or the common cold; overuse of the vocal cords by talking, singing, or screaming; smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke; or exposure to dry or polluted air. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also play a role in laryngitis; strong acids can travel up from the stomach into the larynx, causing irritation and loss of the voice. Laryngitis caused by GERD, which is a common cause among the elderly, can make people feel as if they have something stuck in the windpipe.
When infections cause laryngitis, it can be contagious. Although it’s usually virus-related, there are also continual, or chronic, forms of laryngitis, typically brought on by smoking and alcohol abuse. Other origins of chronic cases of laryngitis include: allergies, bacterial infection, fungal infection, injury, inhalation of chemical fumes, and sinus disease. Some health conditions, including cancer, can also instigate laryngitis.
Laryngitis Cure and Prevention
In most cases, laryngitis will disappear on its own. Treatment of laryngitis involves drinking plenty of fluids, resting the voice, humidifying the air, making some common-sense lifestyle changes, and using natural and home remedies for symptom relief. Many of these remedies are easy to find and prepare.
Limit conversation to rest the voice. Speak softly as if seated with a friend in a café, eliminate yelling or speaking loudly, and avoid whispering and clearing the throat. Without the stress of everyday use, a person’s voice usually recovers on its own. If the need to speak clearly is urgent, a doctor may prescribe corticosteroids that act like hormones that the body makes naturally to reduce swelling. To relieve pain, you can take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Midol) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Take supplements that reduce inflammation. BCAAs (branch-chained amino acids) are a group of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids, along with glycine, reduce inflammation in a variety of diseases and conditions. It’s highly preferable to take a complete essential amino acid supplement, rather than a BCAA supplement or single amino acid therapy.
Here are some lifestyle changes that can reduce the chance of getting laryngitis in the first place or help in the healing process:
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine and alcohol to avoid dehydration.
- Use artificial saliva to moisten the mouth and throat.
- Stop smoking and avoid smokers.
- Avoid recreational drugs, which can be harmful to the larynx.
- Use a humidifier or vaporizer to add moisture to indoor air.
- Avoid dusty environments.
- Beware of certain drugs such as antihistamines and diuretics that can dry out the mouth and throat.
- Be hyperaware of washing your hands with warm water and soap. Keep surfaces, such as the telephone and door handles, clean with vinegar and a fresh cloth.
- Know what to take for laryngitis. Stay hydrated and soothe your throat by drinking water throughout the day. Fruit juices and non-caffeinated drinks can be both moistening and soothing.
- Start and end the day with steam by boiling water, placing the pot on a protected surface, and breathing the steam in gently for 10 to 15 minutes.
Laryngitis Home Remedies
Most home remedies for laryngitis are already in the house or easy to find. Here are our favorites.
Quite possibly the the best medicine for laryngitis, honey contains sugars and amino acids beneficial for health and bolsters the resistance of the human body. Rich in minerals and considered a natural antibiotic that fights pathogens, honey combats laryngitis symptoms, such as a sore throat, dry cough, phlegm, and seasonal allergy symptoms. It has antifungal and antioxidant activities.
Loaded with antimicrobial properties that kill bacteria and viruses, garlic acts as a natural expectorant. When sliced or crushed, garlic releases the antimicrobial substance allicin, making it effective in treating laryngitis.
The oil from garlic is rich in glucine, aliin, and phytonoxite, which have bactericidal, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory effects, and garlic also contains large amounts of vitamins A, B, C, D, PP, carbon tetrachloride, polysaccharide, inulin, fitoxterin, and other minerals necessary for the body, such as iodine, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and trace elements.
Garlic is rich in antioxidants to help restore the activity of cells in the body, improve resistance, and help the body resist diseases.
An herbal remedy for some common ailments such as colds, pharyngitis, and bronchitis, licorice reduces sputum. It enhances expectoration and dilutes the mucus in the respiratory tract. Glycyrrhizic acid in licorice improves the function of the adrenal glands, and cortisol in licorice has anti-inflammatory properties. Licorice, which boosts the immune system by activating interferons in the body, helps to prevent viral infections.
Good for the throat and for throat infections, fresh ginger comforts inflamed mucous membranes of the larynx. Ginger’s complex chemical composition contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant health benefits. It can be sweetened with honey if needed.
Its strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties kill bacteria and help the body produce excessive mucus. In addition to boosting the immune system, turmeric has three natural plant compounds called curcuminoids that reduce enzymes in the body that contribute to inflammation.
Onions have high levels of antioxidants and sulfur compounds, and onion syrup acts as a natural expectorant and a natural cure for larynx inflammation. Onions are rich in vitamins A, B, C, as well as natural folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, chromium, iron, and fiber.
Apple Cider Vinegar
With some serious antimicrobial properties to stave off infections, apple cider vinegar also helps balance stomach acid levels. Being naturally acidic, it can lower pH level in the stomach and offer probiotics and enzymes to improve food digestion and fight GERD and acid reflux. Apple cider vinegar also repels infections and other acute conditions due to its antimicrobial properties.
Peppermint Essential Oil
Natural antispasmodic activity helps fight off contractions that make people cough, while cutting irritation to the vocal cords. Peppermint essential oil also helps treat allergies, a potential cause of laryngitis. It relieves scratchy throats, colds, and coughs; serves as an expectorant; discharges phlegm; and reduces inflammation of the vocal cords.
With numerous vitamins and antioxidants, tea can relieve inflammation and harmful bacteria in the throat. Soothing the throat and the stomach, chrysanthemum and mint tea are especially helpful when used with a few drops of honey. Mullein tea can also soothe a sore throat and reduce inflammation. A mild astringent and antibacterial agent, it can help to treat laryngitis that comes from an infection of the larynx.
Marshmallow Root and Slippery Elm
Prized for their mucilage, marshmallow root and slippery elm help coat the throat to relieve irritation. They also help subdue swelling in the lymph nodes, bolster the healing process, and reduce aggravating dry laryngitis cough.
Various gargles with household items are helpful for laryngitis. A saltwater gargle soothes infected and inflamed vocal cords and sore throats and kills bacteria. Gargling with vinegar, a weak acid, can reduce the buildup of infectious organisms. A lemon juice and salt gargle stimulates saliva flow and kills many microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses because of its acidity, which is increased by the salt. It also aids in loosening mucus.