It’s certainly been an eventful season for illness. Over the past month or so, I’ve seen patients coming in with everything from the common cold to the flu, which, if you haven’t heard, is making something of a nuisance of itself this year. Another condition I’m seeing a lot of is laryngitis. You’re probably familiar with it – if you have or have had laryngitis in the past, you’re probably familiar with how it affects your ability to talk. That’s because it’s usually triggered by a viral infection that causes the larynx (or voice box) to become swollen and irritated, which means you’re left hoarse, or without any voice at all for a few days.
5 Tips to Try at Home
While it’s usually not serious, it can be uncomfortable and extremely inconvenient. Laryngitis tends to resolve itself in about seven days, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to help your voice along in the process!
- Keep your throat moist – Don’t let your throat dry out! This only causes additional irritation and can hinder your recovery time. To avoid this, try chewing on gum, sucking on lozenges, or gargling with salt water. And don’t swallow the salt water.
- Moisten the air – Even in humid climates like Houston, the air is drier than normal in the winter and using a humidifier will help keep a more balanced level of moisture in your throat. If you don’t already have a humidifier, consider buying one and running it in whatever room you’re in, especially overnight.
- Drink plenty of fluids – Are you noticing a trend here? Moisture is the name of the game in hastening your recovery from laryngitis. Drink plenty of water. Not only is it good for you, it will help keep your throat moist. Avoid liquids with caffeine, like coffee or soda, because caffeine dehydrates the body, which is the opposite of what you want. And avoid alcohol – that’s another liquid that dehydrates you.
- Rest! Your voice that is – Oftentimes, people with laryngitis feel fine other than the discomfort that comes with being hoarse or having totally lost your voice all together. If your doctor says it’s OK, you might not have to change your daily routine all that much, but definitely rest that voice. This means avoiding talking or singing too loudly for too long. To be honest, the less you talk the faster you’ll get better. If you have to talk, try to put a limit on how long you do it, and don’t try to project your voice – if you have any voice left at all, projecting is a surefire way to completely lose it.
- Don’t whisper – This probably seems counterintuitive. If you’re not supposed to project, then surely whispering is OK. It isn’t. Whispering is actually more stressful on your larynx and vocal chords than talking normally, so while you might think you’re doing a good thing by whispering, you’re probably doing more harm than good. The best thing to do is stay quiet as much as possible.
If you think you might have laryngitis, make an appointment with your doctor to be sure, especially if you have chronic laryngitis. While laryngitis is usually caused by a virus, it can also be triggered by other underlying issues like heartburn, smoking, or drinking, so see your physician is a good way to rule these things out.
Dr. Paul O’Leary is a board-certified Internal Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Summer Creek Clinic. His clinical interests include preventive healthcare, hypertension, lipid disorders and patient education.