Location of the voice box in the neck, with detail of a normal vocal cord and an inflamed vocal cord

Your Care Instructions

Laryngitis is an inflammation of the voice box (larynx) that causes your voice to become raspy or hoarse. It can be short-lived or long-lasting. Most of the time, laryngitis comes on quickly and lasts as long as 2 weeks. It is caused by overuse, irritation, or infection of the vocal cords inside the larynx.

Some of the most common causes are a cold, influenza (flu), or allergies. Loud talking, shouting, cheering, or singing also can cause laryngitis. Stomach acid that backs up into the throat also can make you lose your voice.

Resting your voice and taking other steps at home can help you get your voice back.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Follow your doctor’s directions for treating the condition that caused you to lose your voice. If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Before you use cough and cold medicines, check the label. They may not be safe for children younger than age 6 or for people with certain health problems.
  • Try to keep stomach acid from backing up into your throat. Do not eat just before bedtime. Reduce the amount of coffee and alcohol you drink, and eat healthy foods. Taking over-the-counter acid reducers can help when these steps are not enough. In some cases, you may need prescription medicine.
  • Rest your voice. You do not have to stop speaking, but use your voice as little as possible. Speak softly but do not whisper; whispering can bother your larynx more than speaking softly. Avoid talking on the telephone or trying to speak loudly.
  • Try not to clear your throat. This can cause more irritation of your larynx. Take an over-the-counter cough suppressant (if your doctor recommends it) if you have a dry cough that does not produce mucus.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer to add moisture to your bedroom. Humidity helps to thin the mucus in the nasal membranes that causes stuffiness or post-nasal drip. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Use saline (saltwater) nasal washes to help keep your nasal passages open and wash out mucus and bacteria. You can buy saline nose drops at a grocery store or drugstore. Or, you can make your own at home by mixing ½ teaspoon salt, 1 cup water (at room temperature), and ½ teaspoon baking soda. If you make your own, fill a bulb syringe with the solution, insert the tip into your nostril, and squeeze gently. Blow your nose.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse pain.
  • You have trouble swallowing.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected