Laryngitis is a common medical condition characterized by inflammation and swelling of the larynx (voice box). Common viruses, infections or overuse of your voice causes the majority of laryngitis cases. Laryngitis is usually 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 afterwards. At times, laryngitis can be an indication of a more serious issue but is usually resolved over a period of a few weeks.
Symptoms and signs of common laryngitis include the following:
- Sensation of having a “tickle in your throat”
- An urge to constantly clear your throat
- Low grade fever
- Swollen glands
The following symptoms definitely warrant a visit to an ear, nose and throat specialist:
- A sore throat accompanied by a fever
- Coughing up yellow or green phlegm (possibly bacterial sinusitis or bronchitis)
- Coughing up blood
- Difficulty drinking liquids
- Previous history of throat and/or breathing problems
- Symptoms continuing for two to three weeks regardless of voice rest
- Unexplained loss of weight
- Discomfort or pain of the throat
- Associated neck swelling
If your child only has hoarseness, either with or without accompanying symptoms, like a mild fever (under 100.5 F), muscle aches, runny nose, nasal congestion or cough, their laryngitis should be treated in the same manner as an adult case. However, if your child has a high fever, sore throat, refuses to eat/drink and in the case of an infant has fewer wet diapers than normal (possible dehydration), you should take them to the emergency department immediately.
Some symptoms can be extremely serious and actually life threatening. In these cases, you or your child should proceed immediately to the nearest emergency room or call 911:
- Difficulty breathing
- Sensation that the throat is closing up
- Unable to swallow properly
- Can only breathe sitting in an upright position
- Whistling sound in the throat when breathing
Causes and concerns
Typically, laryngitis results from a viral or bacterial infection or from using your voice too much. Bacterial and viral cases of laryngitis are quite contagious. On very rare occasions, laryngitis infections can be caused by more serious conditions like, tuberculosis or syphilis. A patient with a persistent case of laryngitis should see an ear, nose and throat specialist to rule out the possibility of a tumor, which could prove to be cancerous. Anyone who smokes or consumes alcohol is at a higher risk for throat cancers.
Solutions and options
Your doctor will begin diagnosis with a physical examination. They will concentrate on the throat, nose, ears and neck. If you have severe symptoms, you may need a chest or neck x-ray. A thorough examination of the throat may be performed with a small, lighted scope that is guided through the nose to the throat, after the nose is numbed with local anesthetic.
This procedure takes a few minutes but it can provide important information concerning the condition of the laryngeal nerve controlling movements of the vocal cords. It also enables the doctor to obtain information about any masses present and the degree of inflammation. On occasion, an ear, nose and throat specialist might draw blood for a complete blood count (CBC) specimen.
If symptoms have only lasted for a few days or come on after overusing the voice, the main treatment is to try to rest the voice for as long as possible as well as drinking lots of fluids. If you display symptoms of viral infection (i.e. low fever, cough, congested or runny nose), then you need to push fluids and take an over-the-counter pain reliever to alleviate these symptoms.
You should also try inhaling steam from a hot bath/shower or using a cool mist humidifier to help ease symptoms. Generally speaking, the above home treatments should cure or improve the laryngitis. If the laryngitis lingers, make an appointment to see a specialist. They may prescribe antibiotics if an accompanying bacterial infection is suspected.
It is extremely important to the overall health and well being of your entire family to never ignore serious medical symptoms, such as persistent laryngitis. If you have some of these symptoms, our caring health professionals can offer solutions to you. Call today for an appointment.