Maybe you're fighting a cold or the flu. Or perhaps you sung your heart out at a concert or cheered too loudly at a ballgame. Now you're paying the price with laryngitis, an inflammation of your voice box (larynx) that causes your voice to become scratchy or hoarse or maybe even disappear completely.
Laryngitis can be short-term or chronic, reports WebMD. Most often, it comes on quickly and lasts no more than a couple of weeks. Temporary laryngitis can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection or vocal strain, says the Mayo Clinic. Long-lasting laryngitis may be due to acid reflux (also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD), irritants such as smoke or allergens, chronic sinusitis, alcohol use or smoking.
In the grand scheme of medical ailments, laryngitis isn't usually a big one; it's typically more irritating than serious. But when your voice dives a couple octaves or it's cracking like the voice of a teenager going through puberty, it's no fun. Here are some laryngitis home remedies you can try to get your voice box back to normal. Remember, if symptoms last for more than two weeks, see your doctor.
Rest your voice
If the cause of your laryngitis is too much yelling, talking or singing, give your vocal cords a break. Try not to talk. When you do, speak softly, but don't whisper. Whispering puts more of a strain on your voice than talking does.
Drink plenty of fluids, especially warm ones like soups and teas, but skip alcohol and caffeine, which will dehydrate you.
Keep your throat moist
Suck on lozenges or sugar-free hard candy, or try chewing gum. The goal is to keep your throat from feeling even scratchier.
Inhale the steam from a hot shower or fill a bowl of hot water and put your head over the vapors. Try a warm or cold air humidifier or vaporizer to add moisture to the air in your home.
Try not to clear your throat
When your voice sounds funny and you feel tickling or scratching in your throat, it's natural to want to try to cough and clear it out. But that won't help and it might make things worse. If you have a cough with your laryngitis, try an over-the-counter cough medicine instead.
Soothe your throat throughout the day by gargling with 1/2 teaspoon of salt mixed in a glass of warm water, suggests the University of Maryland Medical Center. Don't overdo the salt because that might make the irritation worse.
Add a teaspoon of honey to warm tea. Honey is often used to ease sore throats; it may help soothe laryngitis too. Some professional speakers and singers like taking straight honey with a dash of lemon juice, but others argue that because lemon is acidic, it may make irritation worse.
Or try popsicles
If salt water doesn't sound appealing, try something tastier and icier. Popsicles may be more comforting, says MedicineNet.
Although there's not a lot of scientific research in the area, some people have success with various herbal remedies. Eucalyptus, for example, may help soothe an irritated throat. It's available in lozenges, cough syrups and teas. (Don't take eucalpytus oil by mouth, however, because it can be toxic.) Similarly, peppermint can be soothing for sore throats and dry coughs. Licorice root is another common herbal remedy for sore throat irritation, but take it with caution. Licorice interacts with many medications and should be off-limits to people with many medical conditions including heart disease, kidney disease and liver disease.
Suck on ginger
Fresh ginger can help soothe inflamed mucous membranes of the larynx, David J. Hufford, Ph.D. of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine, writes in How Stuff Works. He suggests sucking on candied ginger or drinking a cup of ginger tea. To make the tea, Hufford says: Cut a 1- to 2-inch piece of fresh ginger root into thin slices and place in 1 quart of boiling water. Cover the pot and simmer on the lowest heat for 30 minutes. Let cool for 30 more minutes, strain, and drink 1/2 to 1 cup three to five times a day. Sweeten with honey if needed.
Don't smoke or drink
If you smoke, try to stop. If you drink, knock that off, too. Both can cause laryngitis or definitely make it worse if you already have it.