What is Laryngitis?

Slawleyubmitted to Common Times by Mark Lawley, SWACDA President-Elect

The following material is provided courtesy of Amy Clift, Springfield, MO, Speech Pathologist

Laryngitis is an inflammation of the vocal folds that may be a result of infection, overuse or irritation. When your vocal folds are inflamed, they do not vibrate smoothly and you develop a hoarse, strained and sometimes barely audible voice.

Laryngitis can be short lived (acute) or long lived (chronic). Acute laryngitis should last less than two weeks. When symptoms persist longer than two weeks, there may be a more serious problem and you need to consult your doctor.

The symptoms of laryngitis can be caused by numerous factors. The most common is a viral upper respiratory infection. Vocal abuse in the form of smoking, yelling or overuse also commonly leads to laryngitis. Reflux into the throat can also result in laryngitis.

Your symptoms can initially be treated with voice rest. Drinking extra water, performing steam treatments, and Dr. Gould's gargle may also be helpful. Avoid cough drops, especially mentholated products, rather use sugar free hard candy and increase water intake.

Treatment for laryngitis depends on the cause of the problem and the speed at which your voice needs to return to normal. Most often voice rest and vocal hygiene as described above are the best options. Use your voice more conservatively, do not clear your throat, avoid whispering, get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, use a humidifier at home, avoid smoking, and limit alcohol and caffeine intake.

In some situations steroids may be warranted, but will be prescribed by a doctor. For more chronic laryngitis, the underlying cause must be determined and then that cause needs to be treated. The list of causes may range from laryngopharyngeal reflux, which is treated medically, to a vocal fold polyp which is treated surgically.
If you are a smoker, you should stop smoking and see an Orolaryngologist to make sure cancer is not involved. When vocal fold cancer is detected early, it can usually be treated successfully with surgery or radiation.

Often prevention is the best course of action. When you are sick or you feel laryngitis developing, the best thing to do is take care of yourself and your voice. Use your voice only when you need to and follow the steps mentioned above. Hopefully this will keep you from losing your voice and keep you out of the doctor's office.
Steam & Gargle

These will help lubricate your throat and add direct moisture to your vocal folds. These practices are beneficial before and after singing. These practices will also thin mucous. It is recommended using them together in this order. You may use them several times a day.

Use a facial steamer (available at drug stores or Internet) or bowl or pan of hot water. Make a tent with a towel. Breathe in the steam with your mouth and nose gently for 3-5 minuets. Do not add any other ingredients to the water.

Dr. Gould's Gargle
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp clear corn syrup
6 oz. water
Gargle small amount quietly (no voice), spit and repeat until all is gone. Do not rinse your mouth or eat or drink for 20-30 minutes after.