Lost your voice? No worries. It will turn up again...eventually. Vocal cords vibrate to create the voice. When they get irritated, inflamed, or damaged, they swell up and vibrate differently, causing your voice to change. Laryngitis—the clinical term used to describe this inflammation and swelling—can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term), depending on the underlying cause.


Overuse, injury, irritation, or infection can all cause you to lose your voice.

  • Too much talking, too much shouting or even too much singing all qualifies as overuse. Ongoing overuse can cause nodules or polyps to grow along your vocal cords.
  • Injury to your vocal cords may be due to an accident involving your larynx or the nerves that feed the muscles surrounding your cords.
  • Irritation from overuse of your voice, allergies, excessive use of alcohol, smoke, and other pollutants can lead to inflammation of the vocal cords that results in laryngitis.
  • Infections such as a cold or flu are also common causes of laryngitis. Bacterial infections cause laryngitis too but not very often.

The acute form of laryngitis occurs suddenly and most often the result of a viral infection such as a cold or flu but can also be caused by overuse. Chronic laryngitis, on the other hand, is caused by more serious, chronic conditions such as acid reflux disease, the use of asthma inhalers, and damage from exposure to work chemicals or smoke.


The symptoms of acute laryngitis may last a few weeks. They include:

  • Hoarseness
  • Dry cough
  • Raw, dry, or sore throat
  • Frequent throat clearing
  • Swollen vocal cords
  • Low, weak voice

The symptoms of chronic laryngitis are the same but will not improve unless the underlying conditions are treated or resolved.


If laryngitis is due to a cold, flu, or other respiratory virus, treating the underlying condition can help speed up your recovery from laryngitis. Whenever you have a bout of laryngitis, avoid overusing your voice to prevent long-lasting damage to your vocal cords. Take these steps to treat the symptoms of both acute and chronic laryngitis:

  • Rest your voice as much as possible
  • Avoid speaking loudly, or at length, but also avoid whispering, which can put further strain on you vocal cords
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated
  • Increase the humidity in your home and workplace, if possible
  • Control stomach acid and reflux
  • Avoid exposure to smoke, chemicals, and other irritating substances

In rare cases, when laryngitis stems from a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic. If it is absolutely necessary for you to have use of your voice, you can speak to your doctor about using corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and promote faster healing.

Liesa Harte, MD, reviewed this article.



American Academy of Otolaryngology. Fact Sheet: "Common Problems That Can Affect Your Voice."

Mayo Clinic. "Laryngitis: Treatment and Drugs."

University of Rochester. "Health Topics: Laryngitis."