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Laryngitis Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Laryngitis results from inflammation of the larynx , especially in the vocal cords. Inflammation prevents the vocal cords from moving normally and vibrating freely as the air passes. Talking becomes painful. The voice is changed, hoarse or downright extinct.

There are two types of laryngitis: acute laryngitis and chronic laryngitis and there are differences between laryngitis in children and adults.

Causes of Laryngitis

Acute laryngitis

This is by far the most common form. It occurs suddenly and subsides after a few days or weeks. The most common causes of acute laryngitis are in adults, infectious diseases, traumatic laryngitis, and there are other more rare causes.



  • Infectious laryngitis in adults is more often caused by bacteria than viruses, and is often associated with risk factors (tobacco, alcohol, dusty environment, vapors, vocal mistreatment, humidity, cold, gastroesophageal reflux, respiratory allergy …
  • Traumatic laryngitis can be due to overwork of the vocal cords resulting in a hematoma at the laryngeal level: shouting in an evening, singing at the top of the head, howling during a heavy stress … It can also be a trauma due to a shock (sport, accident, aggression) or intubation during a medical procedure.
  • Laryngitis of rarer causes exists as acute laryngitis due to an allergy (allergic shock) where the larynx undergoes abrupt edema, toxic fumes, or radiation therapy of the neck area.

Chronic laryngitis in adults

When symptoms last more than three weeks , chronic laryngitis is mentioned . In more than 90% of cases, this is a smoker between the ages of 45 and 55.

Chronic laryngitis is usually caused by prolonged exposure to irritating factors. Transformations of the larynx are sometimes permanent and can cause repeated acute laryngitis , in professional singers for example. The causes of chronic laryngitis are:

  • repeated exposure to toxic fumes, allergens;
  • chronic inhalation of irritants (tobacco, dust, asbestos, glass wool …);
  • gastro-oesophageal reflux (acid reflux) problems that are irritating to the larynx;
  • chronic sinusitis or nasal discharge in the larynx (posterior rhinorrhea);
  • excessive and chronic consumption of alcohol irritating factor when it is associated with other irritants (tobacco …)
  • the excessive and repeated solicitation of the voice;
  • the use of inhaled corticosteroids;
  • radiotherapy of the neck area (to treat cancer);
  • precancerous or cancerous lesions of the larynx;
  • vocal cord paralysis caused by a stroke or injury.

Causes of laryngitis in children

Laryngitis in children is often a respiratory emergency. It may be due to:
– a winter virus and is more common in boys;
– a bacterium, haemophilus influenzae, but this becomes rarer because of vaccination against this bacterium;
– a laryngeal spasm, related to a coughing fit or spasm of the sob, triggered by anger or crying. Very shocking, with a frequent loss of consciousness, it is nevertheless the most benign laryngitis of the child;
– diphtheria, which is very rare since normally all children are vaccinated;
– a virus that causes another disease such as measles, mumps, rubella, but most children are vaccinated. Chickenpox, influenza, or herpes virus infections can also cause laryngitis;
– an inhaled foreign body.

When to consult

In most cases, adult acute laryngitis can be treated at home by resting and drinking plenty of water. The use of a humidifier or lozenges can help relieve the throat .

In adults, if the symptoms last more than two weeks, it is advisable to consult a doctor.

But in some cases, especially in children, it can be very serious and require emergency hospitalization. It is therefore necessary to call a doctor very quickly in case of signs of seriousness:

In the child

In children under 5, we speak of ” false croup ” rather than laryngitis . See a doctor immediately if your child:

  • emits high-pitched sounds while breathing
  • saliva more than usual;
  • has trouble swallowing;
  • has trouble breathing
  • has a fever over 39 ° C (103 ° F).

Signs of laryngitis:
– the child breathes slowly and has trouble breathing;
– he makes efforts to breathe;
– we hear a shrill sound during breathing.

Signs of severity of laryngitis:
– the child has difficulty breathing for more than an hour;
– the child is very young (the younger he is, the more urgent it is to call a doctor);
– he is pale;
– He sweats ;
– his heart beats very fast.
The extreme signs of gravity, prompting to call in emergency 15:
– it takes respiratory pauses, or on the contrary, it breathes very quickly;
– he breathes very superficially because he can no longer breathe deeply;
– he no longer has normal consciousness (agitation, drowsiness, confusion);
– it is blue (lips in particular).

Birth laryngitis occurs in some newborn infants due to laryngomalacia , or congenital laryngeal stridor.
It is a congenital anomaly of the larynx. The larynx is too soft and when breathing occurs, from birth or after a few days of life, a sharp fruit or a permanent or intermittent snoring. Then it evolves to regress towards the age of 6 months.

SYMPTOMS of Laryngitis

  • A respiratory slowdown (bradypnea);
  • a difficulty to inspire. Be careful, a difficulty in exhaling is a sign of asthma, not laryngitis;
  • a draw: at the moment of difficult inspiration, the soft parts of the thorax become hollow (the spaces between the ribs, the region under the ribs near the stomach as well as the region above the ribs at the base of the neck);
  • a hoarse noise at the passage of the air;
  • a voice hoarse or downright extinct;
  • a dry cough.

Risk factors for Laryngitis

The acute laryngitis is a rather common condition, but some factors increase risk:

  • contracting an infection of the respiratory tract: colds, bronchitis or sinusitis;
  • be exposed to irritating substances such as cigarette smoke or pollution;
  • to be a boy in children;
  • to be diabetic;
  • the improper solicitation of the voice;
  • the abuse of alcohol;
  • have gastroesophageal reflux
  • not be vaccinated against diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella or hemophilus influenzae.

Prevention of laryngitis

A good way to prevent laryngitis is to avoid asking for excessive voice .

People who have a cold or flu should be particularly cautious in this regard. The following tips are then of good use.

  • Refrain from smoking and avoid second-hand smoke;
  • wash your hands very regularly to limit the transmission of respiratory infections;
  • use disposable tissues and dispose of them immediately in the trash after use;
  • do not squeeze your hands when you have a cold or if the other person is cold;
  • do not drink alcohol excessively;
  • Avoid as much as possible exposing yourself to irritating products in your personal life (vapors of products, dust while tinkering), as in your professional life;
  • treat gastro-oesophageal reflux if you have one;
  • treat your respiratory allergies with appropriate treatment or desensitisation when possible;
  • treat your asthma
  • Drink a lot of water ;
  • avoid scratching your throat
  • best care for your diabetes, your hyperthyroidism, orgyper androgenism;
  • check that you are not lacking vitamin A;
  • vaccinate your children against diphtheria, mumps, rubella, measles and hemophilus influenzae.

Medical treatment of laryngitis

If laryngitis is due to excessive voice pressure , a few days of rest will be enough to soothe the symptoms. If it is of viral or bacterial origin however, it will be necessary to wait for the disappearance of the infection.

At home

The respiratory impact of laryngitis can be reduced by a few simple measures at home.

  • Check for signs of seriousness so that you can react quickly in case of emergency.
  • to sit (or leave the child seated, especially not to lie down)
  • use a humidifier or breathe warm, moist air in the shower or above a bowl of hot water;
  • solicit the voice as little as possible;
  • drink a lot to hydrate, avoiding caffeine or alcohol;
  • eliminate the cause of laryngitis, or its contributing factors such as heartburn, smoking or alcoholism;
  • suck pellets or gargle with salt water .

At the doctor

In cases where a bacterial infection causes laryngitis, the doctor prescribes an antibiotic.

Corticosteroids are the most potent anti-inflammatory drugs known, and they reduce inflammation of the vocal cords . This treatment is used, however, when laryngitis is treated urgently.

Tracheostomy is sometimes essential in urgent and severe cases when the larynx is so swollen that the air almost does not pass. This is an opening made surgically to allow air to enter the larynx and avoid asphyxiation.

Treatment of the cause of laryngitis:
– In adults, laryngitis, especially chronic laryngitis may be related to precancerous or cancerous lesions of the larynx. The treatment is then done accordingly.
– If gastro-oesophageal reflux problems are the cause of laryngitis, the doctor prescribes a suitable treatment, including an antacid drug .

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