Laryngitis is a common medical condition characterized by inflammation and swelling of the larynx (voice box). The majority of cases are caused by common viruses, infections, or overuse of your voice. Laryngitis is not considered a serious health concern.

Symptoms and Signs

Laryngitis may occur at the same time or a couple of days after you have had a sore throat. Once the infection has cleared up, laryngitis can persist for a few weeks afterward. At times, laryngitis can be an indication of severe laryngeal cancer.

Symptoms and signs of common laryngitis include the following:

Early symptoms

  • A sensation of having a “tickle in your throat”
  • An urge to constantly clear your throat
  • Low Low-grade fever
  • Congestion with severe throat pain
  • Cough with sputum

Worsening of the Laryngitis

  • A sore throat accompanied by high-grade fever
  • Coughing up yellow or green sputum (possibly bacterial sinusitis or bronchitis)
  • Coughing up blood-stained sputum
  • Difficulty in swallowing saliva, or drinking liquids
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Hoarseness of voice (may be due to early vocal nodule)
  • Associated neck swelling (lymph glands enlargements)

The following symptoms warrant a visit to an ENT specialist:

If an adult person has hoarseness, accompanying symptoms like a mild fever (under 100.5 F), muscle aches, runny nose, nasal congestion or cough, their laryngitis can be treated with a course of medications. However, if the child or an infant with a high-grade fever, sore throat and refuses to eat or drink with complaints of difficulty in swallowing and drooling of saliva has strenuous breathing will require immediate attention and treated by emergency care physicians.

Some symptoms can be severe and actually life-threatening.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • A sensation that the throat is closing up
  • Unable to swallow properly
  • Drooling
  • Can only breathe sitting in an upright position
  • Whistling sound in the throat when breathing (Airway is compromising)

Typically, laryngitis results from a viral and bacterial throat infection, but the voice change with hoarseness is due to over using of voice that will damage the vocal cords. Bacterial and viral laryngitis is quite contagious and spreads to others. On very rare occasions, laryngitis can be caused by fungal infections, tuberculosis or syphilis. A patient with a persistent voice change with laryngitis symptoms more than 3 weeks should see the head, neck, and throat specialist to rule out the possibility of a tumour of larynx, which could prove to be cancerous.

Solutions and Options

The majority of the time the doctor will evaluate the physical examination of the throat, nose, ears and neck. If severe symptoms associated with breathing difficulty requires chest and neck x-ray. A thorough examination of the throat will be performed by a small-lighted endoscope, to evaluate the voice box and airway. This procedure takes a few minutes but it can provide important information concerning the condition of the laryngeal mucosa and movements of the vocal cords.

Treatment

Patients will require mild analgesics and anti-allergic medication if symptoms are only for a few days. If the patient has voice change with hoarseness, it will require voice rest for a week and advised to maintain the hydration by drinking adequate water. Steam inhalation will be additionally helpful to ease out the symptoms. Generally speaking, the above home treatments should cure or improve the early symptoms of laryngitis. If laryngitis lingers, make an appointment to see an ENT specialist, sometime it may require antibiotics if an accompanying bacterial infection is suspected.

Summary

Above all, personal hygiene, hand hygiene helps to prevent the spread of bacteria, and Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze will definitely help to prevent viral infection spreading to others. It is extremely important to the overall health and well-being of the entire family never to ignore serious medical symptoms, such as persistent laryngitis. If you have some of these symptoms, do not ignore it, our health care professionals can offer solutions to you.

Article by Dr. Sundhari Veluchamy, M.B.B.S., D.N.B.(Oto-Rhino-Laryngology)
Consultant ENT Head and Neck Surgeon,
Kauvery Hospital, Chennai

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