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Lost Your Voice? Try These Tips to Treat Laryngitis Quickly

Colds and the flu are a primary cause for laryngitis. Get back up and communicating faster with this advice on how to treat an inflamed voice box.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Laryngitis, which is prevalent during cold and flu season, is caused when the larynx—or voice box, which functions as a set of muscles that close when we swallow—becomes inflamed. To produce voice, folds of tissue within the larynx rub up against each other. And when inflammation gets into that lining, they don’t vibrate properly, explains Joshua B. Silverman, MD, PhD, chief of the division of laryngology and department of otolaryngology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Rego Park, NY. Usually the condition will resolve with “conservative measures,” he says, and hydration is the most important treatment for anyone with a bout of laryngitis. “When I say inflamed, I mean angry, red, and swollen. The voice box is very perceptible to dry mouth.” To drink more water, Dr. Silverman recommends carrying a water bottle around throughout the day and continually sipping from it.

Humidifier blowing air into a room.istock/yocamon

Keep a humid environment

Dr. Silverman can’t stress enough how important humidifying is for those with laryngitis. “Two common laryngitis causes are upper respiratory infection or acute vocal strain,” he explains. “If a patient has a cold and is mouth breathing, the throat becomes dry, and that directly affects the larynx.” His advice: Place a cool or warm humidifier right next to your bed, so the air goes right onto you. Equally important: Making sure the filter is new or clean! Here’s how to choose the best humidifier for your space.

Person opening their mouth to speak.istock/4fr

Don’t overstrain your voice

When your voice is hoarse, Dr. Silverman explains that your natural instinct is to strain harder, which exacerbates the condition. “If you take swollen tissue and force it harder, it makes it worse, and it makes recovery longer,” he says, explaining that the tiny blood vessels inside vocal folds can pop when you strain. “I see this weekly,” he notes. “You can see collectives of blood inside the vocal chords.” Ew! Try one of these 16 natural gargle recipes to help soothe a sore throat.

Man with a mustache smoking a cigarette.istock

Stay smoke-free

“Smoking can cause your throat to be sore because the heat from the cigarette, cigar, or vape pen dries your throat out,” says says Ashley Wood, RN, a nurse in Atlanta, GA and contributor at Demystifying Your Health. “Also, all of the chemicals in the products also can irritate your throat. If you’re sick and you smoke, then your sore throat is likely to get worse.” A bout of laryngitis is actually a very good time to try to stop smoking—here’s how your body changes when you quit smoking.

Blank piece of paper on a clipboard.istock/fabrikacr

Finally, just rest your voice

Easier said than done, but Dr. Silverman underscores voice rest as the best way to get your voice back on track quickly. He defines complete voice rest as just that: Literally no speaking, and “walking around with a clipboard.” For relative voice rest, he recommends “nothing over a quiet voice. Don’t speak to anyone more than arm’s reach away. And no whispering – that can even be worse than shouting.” While you’re at it, try these cold remedies that really work.

Sources
  • Joshua B. Silverman, MD, PhD, chief of laryngology and otolaryngology, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Rego Park, NY.
  • Ashley Wood, RN, nurse contributor at Demystifying Your Health, Atlanta, GA.
Medically reviewed by Michael Spertus, MD, on October 22, 2019