Laryngitis lives in the winter. It doesn’t get much press, really, when stacked up against a couple of other viruses that strike in the colder months — those that cause the common cold and flu. So, with that in mind, let’s peruse some notes on laryngitis and check out the ideal ways you can protect yourself and treat the condition, should you catch the virus.
Laryngitis is basically the condition where your larynx (voice box) is swollen, which, in turn, inflames and/or irritates the vocal cords inside it. As a result, your voice becomes hoarse and, if the swelling is bad enough, your voice can become so low it will be barely detectable. You may have related symptoms, including a sore, dry throat and a dry cough. Laryngitis can be acute or chronic — the latter potentially signaling a potentially serious problem.
While you can inflame your larynx by overusing it or by irritating it, it’s the virus you have to worry about in the winter. It’s contagious, thus it passes along just like a flu bug. So, in order to protect yourself, wash your hands thoroughly many times a day and avoid contact with people who have a laryngitis infection. This is perhaps the one point that goes overlooked: A coworker who has laryngitis, for example, can spread it to you in the same way that he/she can give you a cold.
Now, how do you treat viral laryngitis? The best advice is to rest your voice and not to talk very often. Certainly don’t strain yourself just to be heard. The reason is that you’ll want to limit the amount of irritation to the larynx, which will prevent further injury and thus keep the condition around longer. On that note, don’t clear your throat either, as that is irritating to the larynx as well.
Next, you’ll want to drink lots of water, as you’ll want your voice box to stay moist rather than dry. Many of us gargle with salt water for throat irritation — though there is no medicinal benefit to this, it can be soothing. Inhaling steam can do the same thing. You can also try sucking on throat lozenges or even chewing gum to keep the fluids moving.
Most cases will subside without any lasting damage. Occasionally, vocal cord bleeding or the development of a lesion on the larynx can happen. Any health problem stemming from laryngitis is more likely to happen if you don’t rest your voice. (Even whispering puts pressure on the voice box.)
Many of us take our voices for granted until we have a problem occur. Caring for your voice box every day is a good way to keep it fine-tuned and in good shape. Keeping hydrated, refraining from screaming, not smoking, taking deep breaths throughout the day, and using microphones when speaking or performing are all ways you can help protect what experts call your “natural instrument.”