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Laryngitis refers to an inflammation of the voice box. Discover the causes, symptoms, how to treat laryngitis and when you should see a doctor.

What is laryngitis?

Laryngitis is an inflammation of the voice box (larynx), typically caused by an infection. This is generally caused by a virus and is often linked with a common cold or flu.

What causes laryngitis?

  • Overuse or straining of the voice
  • Regurgitation (reflux) of stomach acid
  • Allergies to dust, fumes or chemicals which can irritate the larynx
  • Prolonged periods of coughing or throat clearing
  • Heavy smoking
  • Alcohol misuse

Symptoms of laryngitis

  • Hoarse or croaky voice (sometimes loss of voice)
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Temperature
  • Feeling a need to clear your throat


Generally, laryngitis is caused by a virus so will get better on its own within 1-2 weeks. Laryngitis treatment, or antibiotics, are not normally required.

Here are some things you can do to help laryngitis symptoms improve:

  • Rest your voice (reduce your speaking time - do not whisper, sing or speak loudly as this can strain the voice)
  • Eat nutritious food
  • Drink plenty of fluids – water is best
  • Gargle salt for a sore throat
  • Get plenty of rest
  • If necessary, use over-the-counter medications like paracetamol and ibuprofen, to reduce pain or temperature
  • Use a humidifier or inhale steam to prevent dryness

If laryngitis is caused by something other than an infection, it’s important to get the right treatment for this – a GP can discuss next steps with you.

For example, if laryngitis is caused by stomach acid reflux, you may need to change your diet, moderate your lifestyle or take medication to control your stomach acid.

To help treat and prevent laryngitis, it’s also important to:

  • Avoid smoky environments (and if you smoke, try to stop)
  • Reduce alcohol intake

People with laryngitis provoked by voice straining may also benefit from vocal therapy.

When to see a GP

  • If you have symptoms of laryngitis for longer than 2 weeks
  • If you have any breathing difficulties
  • If you have difficulty swallowing
  • If you get recurrent episodes of laryngitis
Reviewed by:

Dr Rhianna McClymont

Lead GP at Livi

Last updated: