Laryngitis is an inflammation of your voice box (larynx) from overuse, irritation or infection.

Inside the larynx are your vocal cords — two folds of mucous membrane covering muscle and cartilage. Normally, your vocal cords open and close smoothly, forming sounds through their movement and vibration.

But in laryngitis, your vocal cords become inflamed or irritated. This swelling causes distortion of the sounds produced by air passing over them. As a result, your voice sounds hoarse. In some cases of laryngitis, your voice can become almost undetectable.

Laryngitis may be short-lived (acute) or long lasting (chronic). Most cases of laryngitis are triggered by temporary viral infection or vocal strain and aren't serious. Persistent hoarseness can sometimes signal a more serious underlying medical condition.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

In most cases laryngitis symptoms last less than a couple of weeks and are caused by something minor, such as a virus. Less often, laryngitis symptoms are caused by something more serious or long lasting. Laryngitis signs and symptoms can include:

  • Hoarseness
  • Weak voice or voice loss
  • Tickling sensation and rawness of your throat
  • Sore throat
  • Dry throat
  • Dry cough

When to see a doctor

You can manage most acute cases of laryngitis with self-care steps, such as resting your voice and drinking plenty of fluids. Strenuous use of your voice during an episode of acute laryngitis can damage your vocal cords.

Make an appointment with a doctor if hoarseness lasts more than two weeks.

Seek immediate medical attention if your child:

  • Makes noisy, high-pitched breathing sounds when inhaling
  • Drools more than usual
  • Has trouble swallowing
  • Has difficulty breathing
  • Has a fever higher than 103 F (39.4 C)

These signs and symptoms may indicate croup — inflammation of the larynx and the airway just beneath it. Although croup can usually be treated at home, severe symptoms require medical attention. These symptoms also can indicate epiglottitis, an inflammation of the tissue that covers the windpipe (trachea), which can be life-threatening for children and adults.

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