When laryngitis silences you

January 13, 2008 6:46:51 AM PST
Some people just can't get through winter without a case of laryngitis. A doctor offers insights into the big causes of laryngitis, and how to deal with it.

Answering the phone was a challenge when Sue Stasinski was dealing with laryngitis.

Sue remembers, "It started out where it just sounded like you know, here and there your voice would kind of go in & out, but then it was not really coming out that much at all."

Days turned into weeks, and Sue's voice still wasn't back to normal.

She laughs, as she says, "Of course, at home, they didn't mind. But it's like, you know here at work, it would be hard to come in."

Dr. Joel Blumin, an ear, nose, and throat specialist, says laryngitis is a very common ailment, affecting the way the vocal cords work. "When the vocal cord gets swollen, it gets a little stiff, and doesn't vibrate or wiggle as well as it should."

Dr. Blumin says the most common cause of laryngitis is acid reflux, but it also comes with colds, allergies, and overusing the voice.

If a cold is the cause, the best strategy is common sense and H-2-O. Dr. Blumin explains, "Kinds of things your mom told you, drinking water, you know, being well hydrated, getting plenty of rest."

In addition, avoid acidic foods, such as tomato products, or acidic drinks, like orange juice.

"Especially when the vocal cords are already inflamed from a viral thing, you want to really decrease any reason to keep them, keep them inflamed," Dr. Blumin says.

Short term, numbing cough drops or throat sprays are fine, with one caveat.

Dr. Blumin says, "The more you use them the more you become blunted to what's going on in your throat, and pain is an important signal."

If you're really straining to talk, the doctor says you'll need to try the silent treatment. "If you're not getting a voice out and you have to, you know, have a lot of effort to get a voice out, it's probably time to rest the voice," says Dr. Blumin.

And if the pain is severe, or the laryngitis sticks around, be sure to call your doctor.