Laryngitis occurs when your larynx, commonly referred to as the voice box, becomes inflamed by either a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. Injury from tobacco smoke or overuse of your voice can also result in laryngitis (these forms are not contagious).
Because the larynx is made up of the vocal cords, it's common to lose your voice when you have laryngitis. You may also experience dryness as well as painful scratchiness in the back of your throat when your larynx is inflamed or infected.
If you're showing signs of laryngitis, it's important that you seek medical care quickly so you can begin a treatment plan. You will also want to determine the cause of your illness to figure out if you're at risk of spreading it to others.
Here's a look at what causes laryngitis, when it's most contagious, and when you should go to urgent care for the infection.
Should I go to urgent care for a sore throat?
A sore throat in and of itself doesn't warrant a visit to the provider. When it's accompanied by other symptoms that could indicate illness, though, you may want to get a proper diagnosis. Symptoms such as difficulty turning your head, swollen glands, fever, severe pain, scratchiness in your throat, and pus on your tonsils are all reasons to seek medical attention at an urgent care.
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Should I go to urgent care for laryngitis?
If you have symptoms of laryngitis, it's important that you begin treatment as soon as possible. Not only are you at risk of exposing others to the illness if it's caused by an infection, but you can also get relief from your painful symptoms the sooner you go.
Once you've seen a provider, you should recover within a week by following the recommended treatment plan. If any of the following occurs during your treatment period, you should return to urgent care for medical attention:
- You spike a fever higher than 103°F
- You begin coughing up blood
- You have difficulty breathing or swallowing
- You make high-pitched noises when breathing
- You have severe pain in your throat
- Your symptoms last more than 3 weeks
Is my sore throat laryngitis?
It can be difficult to determine if a sore throat is due to something minor like seasonal allergies or if it's indicative of a more serious illness like laryngitis. If you have laryngitis, you may also experience the following symptoms:
- Scratchy or raw throat
- Persistent dry cough
- Difficulty speaking
- Dryness in the throat
- Sharp pain when you swallow
- Pus or mucus discharge
- Bad smelling breath
None of the symptoms above necessarily mean you have laryngitis; however, it's a good idea to see a provider who can give you a full exam and determine what might be going on.
Is laryngitis contagious?
Whether or not you can spread laryngitis to someone depends on your case's cause. If an infection causes your laryngitis, it is possible that you could spread the illness. Here are the viral infections that can cause laryngitis and how long you'll be contagious with each.
If your laryngitis is caused by a virus, like the common cold, it may go away on its own within a week or two without any treatment needed. A virus is the most common infectious cause of laryngitis; however, it's also the least contagious. You are most contagious when you have a fever.
If you have an overgrowth of infectious bacteria, it can result in laryngitis. This type of laryngitis is more contagious than viral laryngitis, and you will likely need antibiotics prescribed by your provider to fully treat it.
An overgrowth of fungus in the larynx can cause yeast infections that result in laryngitis. This form of laryngitis is also more contagious than viral laryngitis.
How long does laryngitis last?
In most cases, laryngitis will go away within a week. You might notice that symptoms are worse the first few days and begin to improve as the week continues. However, hoarseness can stay with you for longer as the voice box needs plenty of time to heal.
Although rare, it is possible to develop chronic laryngitis. This happens when the larynx has been permanently damaged. It's also possible for chronic laryngitis to be caused by consistent exposure to cigarette smoke, chemical inhalation, long-term sinus inflammation, alcohol overuse, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or overuse of the vocal cords.
How do you treat laryngitis?
If your laryngitis is caused by an infection, you will most likely need a course of oral antibiotics or antifungal therapy before it goes away. This will help minimize and kill the bacteria or fungus growth causing the infection. Antifungal treatment can take as much as three weeks to run its course.
You may want to ask your provider about ways to relieve symptoms during your treatment plan. Pain relievers like ibuprofen can help minimize discomfort as your throat is healing.
Other ways to speed up recovery include limiting smoking, cutting back on coffee and alcohol, drinking plenty of water, and using lozenges to relieve the irritation in your throat.
For laryngitis cases caused by overuse, you will need to rest your voice and try to cut back on talking for a few days. This will help the pain go away and allow your voice to return as quickly as possible.
If you're suffering from symptoms of laryngitis, seek a proper diagnosis at your local CareNow® urgent care center. Our qualified physicians are ready to serve you when you need it most — even after hours and on the weekends.
You can also rest assured that you're getting only the best care at CareNow® as we've earned the distinction of Accredited Urgent Care Center from our industry's association, Urgent Care Association (UCA).
We have more than 175 urgent care clinics around the country, and we welcome walk-in patients, so you can be seen when it's most convenient for you. We also offer a Web Check-In® feature that allows you to wait from anywhere instead of the waiting room.