Laryngitis is a medical condition that leads to inflammation of the voice box that is larynx. The inflammation normally stems from overuse, irritation or infections in the voice box. The medical term for a variety of disorders that affects the voice box is dysphonia and laryngitis belongs to this group of diseases. Laryngitis is characterized by a hoarse voice or raspy voice in the patients and in the extreme cases it can lead to total loss of voice. This is because of the repetitive irritation of the vocal cords or the vocal folds. A patient with laryngitis may sometimes struggle to speak yet nothing is heard.
The larynx is located at the entrance of the trachea or the windpipe. The larynx is tube like in nature. Externally the larynx is what is known as the Adam’s apple, a lump that protrudes at the front of the throat especially in males. The larynx has three main functions. The first function is providing a passage for air into the windpipe during the breathing process. The next is to act as the windpipe valve. It is responsible for closing the windpipe during saliva, liquid or food swallow and any other solid from entering the windpipe which would choke or trigger coughing. Most importantly, it is at the larynx where vocal cords are contained. These are flaps or folds which vibrate depending on how air passes through them to produce the sound of ones voice. The vocal cords are unique in a way from person to person which explains why voice differs from person to person. Any problem with the larynx will impact negatively on all the physiological functions of the larynx.
Laryngitis can be categorized into two types depending on the intensity. An acute laryngitis will lasts for only a few days. Laryngitis that lasts for more a fortnight is usually termed chronic. The chronic laryngitis rare in young people but is much more common in middle aged people especially smokers and men than women.
Causes of Laryngitis
- The most common cause of laryngitis is exposure to flu and colds. These make you susceptible to fever which will lead to infection of the larynx. Cold causes inflammation which hampers the normal functioning of the vocal cords.
- The other common cause of laryngitis is acid reflux. This disease is the gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Gastoesophageal reflux disease is commonly referred to as reflux laryngitis.
- Overuse of voice also causes laryngitis. This is common for music personalities after stage performances. After the conclusion of the South Africa world cup, several cases of laryngitis were reported due to overuse of the vuvuzuelas which put a strain on the vocal cords during cheering. This kind of laryngitis usually clears a way with simple homecare and relaxation.
- Irritation is another cause of laryngitis. Irritation can be caused by smoke, alcohol and inhalation of other toxic chemicals. These chemicals will lead to allergic reaction of the larynx to the toxic chemical in the inhaled substances. People who are allergic to toxic chemicals are encouraged to avoid exposure since repeated attacks to the vocal cords can lead to partial and permanent damage which translates to partial or permanent voice cords. Excessive smoking.
- Chronic cases of laryngitis may be due to more severe health problems such as thick hard nodules or lumps growing in the vocal cords, damage to the larynx nerves, sores, polyps and viral infections.
- Some problems to the vocal cords occur with increase in age. With age the vocal folds grow thinner and loosen. This is why as someone grows old, the voice becomes hoarse and husky. This is more common for men than women.
- Bacterial or fungal infections also lead to inflammation of the voice box causing laryngitis. In addition, viral infections can also lead to laryngitis. An upper respiratory infection will also result to laryngitis in many cases. Laryngitis in children is very dangerous. The respiratory system of children is not well developed and any laryngeal problems will lead to blockage of the respiratory system which is very fatal. The various forms of laryngitis in children include epiglottises and croup. Pneumonia is also potentially dangerous for children below ten years.
Symptoms of Laryngitis
The main primary symptoms of laryngitis are:
- Loss of voice,
- Hoarseness and
- Throat pain.
The symptoms of laryngitis vary with age. For adults if the laryngitis stems from infections then it will be manifested in the following ways:
- A cough that is unusually dry,
- Cold and discomfort in the upper respiratory tract,
- Swollen lymph glands in the neck,
- Difficulty when swallowing food,
- Feeling of fullness in the throat or neck,
- Running nose and
- Partial loss of voice.
In case laryngitis is not infectious then hoarseness of the voice and coughing may be the only symptoms. In young children and infants, the cartilage in the larynx is much softer and weaker and they may need to struggle so much in a breathing process. The child will result to breathing through the mouth which means that smoke and dust filled air will be sucked leading to even more irritation. With age the larynx usually becomes bigger and stiffer and will be able to withstand even deep breaths. The symptoms in children are:
- Wheezing sound when breathing.
- Hoarse barky cough which may be accompanied by crying for small children and infants.
Laryngitis Home Remedies
The treatment available for laryngitis range from simple home care solutions to medical hospital care treatments. Here, we will take a look at some of the Home Remedies that you can use to help with Laryngitis. Remember, you should always consult with your physician in order to get a proper diagnosis and before trying to incorporate these home remedies and herbal remedies yourself!
- Vinegar. Do you know that Viruses and bacteria dread an acidic environment? Gargle your mouth with vinegar, a weak acid can help wipe out many infectious organisms. Pour equal amounts of vinegar and water into a cup, mix, and gargle two to four times a day. If it is your first time, you may find it hard to gargle with straight vinegar.
- Lemon or cinnamon. Lemon as well as cinnamon are good is curing sore throat since it is acidic hence stimulates saliva flow. You can try using salt, cinnamon and lemon juice and gaggle the mixture. This in turn helps kill many microorganisms prone to weak acids.
- Garlic. It is good in treating sore theocrat as well as viral infections. Slice or crush it to release the antimicrobial substance allicin. Alicin kills bacteria, including strep and some viruses. Slice a garlic clove down the middle and place half a clove on each side of the mouth.
- Ginger. Fresh ginger can help soothe inflamed mucous membranes of the larynx. You can boil it when preparing a cup of tea every day until you feel better.
- Barberry .it contains anti-bacterial (berberine) that is effective against infections of ears, nose and throat. A decoction of either the root or berries makes a good mouthwash for mouth and throat irritations.
- Elder flower. A gargle made from elderflower infusion or elderflower vinegar alleviates tonsillitis and sore throats.
- Redroot. It is popularly known as a remedy for swollen glands, lymphatic stagnation, edema, enlargement and inflammation of the spleen, chronic bronchitis, and leucorrhoea.
- Echinacea: this is herb used in the treatment of Laryngitis and many other problems affecting the respiratory system. This immune system treatment is known to combat various infections as well as inflammation. The other conditions it treats include colds, allergies etc.
- Drink plenty of fluids– The patient should always drink a lot of fluids. Especially when has a cold or gastroesophageal reflux.
- Speech Therapy– Another form of treatment is speech therapy. A physician may recommend a treatment that will include speech therapy after completion of treatment or after a surgical procedure to help a patient restore his voice and speech capabilities. In addition, the stress that has impacted on the vocal cords to a greater magnitude can be reduced by using loud, high-pitched infrequent voice.
- Rest your voice– The treatment of common fever laryngitis is relatively easy. By simply resting ones voice the hoarseness will disappear. Taking a spoonful of honey two to three times a day may help soften the voice. Bitter lemon is also an important relief for a hoarse voice. Most simple laryngitis are viral and not bacterial so one is advised not to rush into antibiotic treatment.
Diet for Laryngitis
There are no specific foods to prevent laryngitis though healthy eating habits in general will lead to good health. The patient should:
- Eat smalls meals during the day.
- Avoid foods that increase irritation and acids in the stomach.
- One should not rest or lie down for up to two hour after eating.
- One should stay hydrated throughout the day by consuming as much fluids, specifically water as possible. Weight gain is also harmful for laryngitis since excess weight increases risk of acid reflux.
Prevention of Laryngitis
- Take precautions against diseases that will affect the larynx.
- Avoid foods that can cause allergic reactions to the throat such as peppermint, alcohols, spicy foods and alcohols.
- Avoid flu and other fevers by avoiding people who have infections in the upper respiratory regions during the cold and flu seasons.
- Always wash your hands before eating.
- Desist from active or passive smoking. Also avoid dusty places. Dust and smoke is an irritant for the larynx which can cause inflammation and problems with the voice box.
- Avoid crowded places. It is possible to catch viral and antibacterial infections in such places.
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