- When to see your GP
- Treating bronchitis
- Why do I have bronchitis?
- Who is affected
- Bronchitis vs. Pneumonia: Here’s How to Tell the Difference
- Cold, Flu, or Allergy?
- Symptoms and causes
- Diagnosis and tests
- Treatment and medication
- Alternative and at-home therapies
- Don’t whisper!
- Additional resources
- Signs and Symptoms
- Risk Factors
- Treatment Approach
- Nutrition and Dietary Supplements
- Other Considerations
- Supporting Research
Bronchitis is an infection of the main airways of the lungs (bronchi), causing them to become irritated and inflamed.
The main symptom is a cough, which may bring up yellow-grey mucus (phlegm). Bronchitis may also cause a sore throat and wheezing.
Read more about the symptoms of bronchitis.
When to see your GP
Most cases of bronchitis can be treated easily at home with rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and plenty of fluids.
You only need to see your GP if your symptoms are severe or unusual – for example, if:
- your cough is severe or lasts longer than three weeks
- you have a constant fever (a temperature of 38°C – 100.4°F – or above) for more than three days
- you cough up mucus streaked with blood
- you have an underlying heart or lung condition, such as asthma or heart failure
Your GP may need to rule out other lung infections, such as pneumonia, which has symptoms similar to those of bronchitis. If your GP thinks you may have pneumonia, you will probably need a chest X-ray, and a sample of mucus may be taken for testing.
If your GP thinks you might have an undiagnosed underlying condition, they may also suggest a pulmonary function test. You will be asked to take a deep breath and blow into a device called a spirometer, which measures the volume of air in your lungs. Decreased lung capacity can indicate an underlying health problem.
In most cases, bronchitis will clear up by itself within a few weeks without the need for treatment. This type of bronchitis is known as “acute bronchitis”. While you are waiting for it to pass, you should drink lots of fluid and get plenty of rest.
In some cases, the symptoms of bronchitis can last much longer. If symptoms last for at least three months, it is known as “chronic bronchitis”. There is no cure for chronic bronchitis, but there are several medications to help relieve symptoms. It is also important to avoid smoking and smoky environments, as this can make your symptoms worse.
Read more about treating bronchitis.
Why do I have bronchitis?
The bronchi are the main airways in your lungs, which branch off on either side of your windpipe (trachea). They lead to smaller and smaller airways inside your lungs, known as bronchioles.
The walls of the bronchi produce mucus to trap dust and other particles that could otherwise cause irritation.
Most cases of acute bronchitis develop when an infection causes the bronchi to become irritated and inflamed, which causes them to produce more mucus than usual. Your body tries to shift this extra mucus through coughing.
Smoking is the most common cause of chronic bronchitis. Over time, tobacco smoke can cause permanent damage to the bronchi, causing them to become inflamed.
Read more about the causes of bronchitis.
Pneumonia is the most common complication of bronchitis. It happens when the infection spreads further into the lungs, causing air sacs inside the lungs to fill up with fluid. 1 in 20 cases of bronchitis leads to pneumonia.
People at an increased risk of developing pneumonia include:
- elderly people
- people who smoke
- people with other health conditions, such as heart, liver or kidney disease
- people with a weakened immune system
Mild pneumonia can usually be treated with antibiotics at home. More severe cases may require admission to hospital.
Read more about the treatment of pneumonia.
Who is affected
Acute bronchitis is one of the most common types of lung infection, and is one of the top five reasons for GP visits.
Acute bronchitis can affect people of all ages, but is most common in younger children under the age of five. It is more common in winter, and often develops following a cold, sore throat or flu.
It is estimated that there are around 2 million people in the UK affected by chronic bronchitis. Most of these are adults over the age of 50.
You’ve been coughing for days (and nights — so many sleepless nights).
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Is it just a cold, bronchitis or something even worse? And should you get checked out or wait it out?
Family physician Donald Ford, MD, gives the lowdown on bronchitis.
Cough, fatigue, a heavy tightness in the chest. It could be bronchitis, pneumonia or just a simple cold. So how can you tell which is which? One thing that sets bronchitis apart is its staying power, says Dr. Ford. “In bronchitis, the cough persists long after you begin to feel better.”
To understand bronchitis, he offers a quick anatomy lesson. The bronchioles are the large airways that extend down into the chest, where they’re capped off with the lungs. Acute bronchitis strikes when the bronchioles become infected (most often by a virus). The airways make mucus in an attempt to shed the viral invaders. That mucus makes you cough your head off.
Even after the virus is gone, though, the lining of the bronchioles remains irritated and inflamed. You’re no longer contagious, even if your barking cough makes coworkers avoid you.
“You’re not sick, but you have these raw, exposed tissues in the airways that are really reactive,” Dr. Ford explains. “Cold air or even just a deep breath can cause a coughing fit.”
Bronchitis or pneumonia?
Unfortunately, since bronchitis is almost always viral, antibiotics won’t help you get better. But that doesn’t mean you should forego seeing your physician. Doctors can prescribe cough suppressants or other drugs to help you deal with symptoms.
They can also rule out more serious illnesses, like pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection that occurs deep in the lungs, rather than up in the bronchioles, Dr. Ford explains.
How do you know if it’s time to see a doctor? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have a high fever? Bronchitis can bump your temperature up by a degree or two, but a triple-digit fever is more likely to be pneumonia. If you’re spiking a high fever, don’t put off the doctor visit.
- Am I having trouble breathing? That could indicate pneumonia, which is nothing to mess around with. If you feel like you can’t breathe, a medical check-up is in order.
- How long have I been sick? Most colds clear up within 7 to 10 days, says Dr. Ford. If you don’t have a fever or trouble breathing, it’s OK to wait it out to see if your cough goes away on its own. But if you’re still hacking after 10 days? Let the professionals take a look.
- How do I feel? If you’re having trouble sleeping, feel like you’re just not getting better, or concerned about your cough, get it checked out, Dr. Ford says. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
“We can usually tell pretty easily by listening to your lungs if it’s bronchitis or pneumonia,” Dr. Ford adds. But that listening part is important, so this is a case when it’s better to see a doctor IRL instead of an online virtual visit.
No, it’s not fun to drag your sick self to the doctor’s office, but it’s worth the trouble. “It’s never a bother for us to take a listen,” he adds. “Don’t be afraid of coming to see us, because it’s always better to find out you’re fine than to miss something serious.”
Bronchitis vs. Pneumonia: Here’s How to Tell the Difference
But there are differences. For starters, there’s location. Pneumonia affects the air sacs in the lungs, while bronchitis affects the bronchial tubes, which act as a sort of tunnel to get air into and out of the lungs.
Most cases of bronchitis are caused by viruses, often the same viruses that are responsible for common colds and the flu. In fact, bronchitis is sometimes even called a “chest cold.”
“The same virus that causes the common cold settles lower down and causes bronchitis” in some people, explains Ephraim L. Tsalik, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Duke Health in Durham, North Carolina.
RELATED: 13 Home Remedies for Bronchitis That Might Finally Ease Your Cough
These viruses also spread like the cold. “People get bronchitis exactly the same way they would get any cold, since it’s almost always viral,” says Dr. Tsalik. “It can be from someone else who’s had an infection, and that person doesn’t have to have had bronchitis.”
The most prominent symptom of bronchitis is a cough, often a cough that occurs in spells, says Dr. Schaffner. You may also cough up mucus (usually clear or light colored), have a low fever, feel tired, and be short of breath. The bronchitis infection itself usually lasts a week to 10 days, but don’t be surprised if the cough outlasts it.
Because bronchitis is almost always viral, antibiotic treatments aren’t effective. You may be able to relieve some symptoms with over-the-counter mucus-loosening drugs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen. A humidifier in your room or a couple of teaspoons of honey in tea or warm water may soothe the coughing as well.
Unlike bronchitis, pneumonia has long been thought to be caused predominantly by bacteria (although viruses and fungi can also cause pneumonia). “The infection gets beyond the confines of the bronchial tubes and actually gets into the substance of the lung,” explains Dr. Schaffner. “Then it causes inflammation in the tissues of the lung.”
RELATED: 8 Signs Your Cough Could Actually Be Pneumonia
A pneumonia infection can extend to one or both lungs. It can also settle into smaller or larger areas of the lung. “The larger the proportion it affects, the more seriously ill you are going to become,” says Dr. Schaffner.
Pneumonia symptoms can be similar to those of bronchitis, but there are also differences. Signs you might have pneumonia versus bronchitis include a high fever, weight loss (due to reduced appetite), and chest pain, says Dr. Tsalik.
It’s unclear if the color of the mucus you’re coughing up (clear, green, yellow, white) is related to the type of infection (bacterial or viral) you have, he adds. But generally, pneumonia lasts longer than bronchitis. Antibiotics can help treat bacterial pneumonia, while some people with viral infections may benefit from antiviral medication. No matter the cause, rest and fluids can help you recover from pneumonia.
More serious cases of pneumonia, meaning they affect a larger proportion of the lung, can lead to difficulty breathing. “You get ‘air hungry,’ and, in the worst case, you actually don’t get enough oxygen,” says Dr. Schaffner.
RELATED: Why Do Some People Die From Pneumonia?
Finally, some good news: There is a vaccine for one type of bacterial pneumonia. The pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for children under the age of 2, adults 65 years or above, and people in between who have certain chronic medical conditions.
“That’s important for people with underlying illnesses of any kind,” says Dr. Schaffner. “Even smokers are at increased risk of pneumonia.”
Most cases of pneumonia develop on their own, separate from bronchitis, but some can be related to bronchitis. These are usually bacterial infections. “The weakness from being sick makes it easier for bacteria to get through the body’s defenses,” says Dr. Schaffner.
Bronchitis isn’t contagious in the usual sense: “I’m not going to give my bronchitis to my wife,” says Dr. Schaffner. “The viral infection can travel, but not necessarily the bronchitis per se.” In other words, another person may “catch” the virus, but it may only cause a cold, or nothing at all.
So is pneumonia contagious? “You can be a ‘carrier’ of the pneumococcus bacteria back in your throat and not get sick yourself; however you can pass it on to others via hugs and kisses,” says Dr. Schaffner. However, just like with bronchitis, it’s not guaranteed that you’d develop pneumonia after coming into contact with the bacteria, he adds.
If you have a really high fever, trouble breathing, or a cough that pulls up pus or blood, see your doctor no matter what you think the cause of your symptoms might be. Your doctor might order a chest X-ray to help determine whether your have bronchitis or pneumonia.
To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter
Bronchitis and laryngitis are both forms of inflammation that cause your voice to become raspy or hoarse.
Bronchitis Vs. Laryngitis
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, the air passages between the mouth and the lungs. There are two types of bronchitis: acute and chronic. Acute is a short term cough that can last up to five days. Chronic is long-term cough that can last anywhere from a few months to a couple of years. Some cases of acute bronchitis can lead to chronic bronchitis. Some coughs that continue to linger can be signs of other illnesses such as asthma or pneumonia.
Laryngitis is an inflammation of the voice box, or larynx and the vocal cords. Depending upon the degree of inflammation , the voice may become mildly hoarse, and may lead to temporary loss of voice. Laryngitis manifest quickly with symptoms that may last for a few days or a couple of weeks. If symptoms last longer than three weeks, it is recommended that individuals seek medical attention as this could be a sign of something more serious.
Viral and bacterial infections such as the common cold are the most common causes of bronchitis and laryngitis. Other causes can be excessive vocal abuse for professions such as being a cheerleader or a singer, or lifestyle factors such as being exposed to dust, chemical irritants, and cigarette smoke.
Symptoms of both infections can come on suddenly and usually consist of a persistent cough, hoarseness, raw throat, the feeling of needing to clear your throat. Other symptoms can include chest tightening, body aches, blocked nose and sinuses, breathlessness, high or low fever.
When to see a doctor
With most cases of minor colds, home remedies and bed rest can help alleviate symptoms of acute bronchitis or laryngitis within a few days. The best treatment for cases of bronchitis or laryngitis is to simply rest your voice and stay well hydrated, drinking plenty of cold or hot fluids to sooth your throat.
You should seek medical treatment if your cough:
- Lasts longer than two weeks
- Prevents a good night’s rest
- Is accompanied by a high fever
- Produces blood or discolored mucus
- Causes difficulty while breathing
At AFC Doctors Express West Orange, our physicians can test for a number of respiratory infections, including bronchitis and laryngitis. Our on-site lab will provide you with quick results so we can provide you with treatment and any medical information that will help in your recovery process.
For more information on the services we provide, please stop by our center today, or call to speak with one of our medical professionals at 973-669-5900.
Cold, Flu, or Allergy?
Know the Difference for Best Treatment
You’re feeling pretty lousy. You’ve got sniffles, sneezing, and a sore throat. Is it a cold, flu, or allergies? It can be hard to tell them apart because they share so many symptoms. But understanding the differences will help you choose the best treatment.
“If you know what you have, you won’t take medications that you don’t need, that aren’t effective, or that might even make your symptoms worse,” says NIH’s Dr. Teresa Hauguel, an expert on infectious diseases that affect breathing.
Cold, flu, and allergy all affect your respiratory systemThe body parts that help you breathe, including your nose, throat, and lungs., which can make it hard to breathe. Each condition has key symptoms that set them apart.
Colds and flu are caused by different viruses. “As a rule of thumb, the symptoms associated with the flu are more severe,” says Hauguel. Both illnesses can lead to a runny, stuffy nose; congestion; cough; and sore throat. But the flu can also cause high fever that lasts for 3-4 days, along with a headache, fatigue, and general aches and pain. These symptoms are less common when you have a cold.
“Allergies are a little different, because they aren’t caused by a virus,” Hauguel explains. “Instead, it’s your body’s immune systemProtects your body from invading germs and other microscopic threats. reacting to a trigger, or allergen, which is something you’re allergic to.” If you have allergies and breathe in things like pollen or pet dander, the immune cells in your nose and airways may overreact to these harmless substances. Your delicate respiratory tissues may then swell, and your nose may become stuffed up or runny.
“Allergies can also cause itchy, watery eyes, which you don’t normally have with a cold or flu,” Hauguel adds.
Allergy symptoms usually last as long as you’re exposed to the allergen, which may be about 6 weeks during pollen seasons in the spring, summer, or fall. Colds and flu rarely last beyond 2 weeks.
Most people with a cold or flu recover on their own without medical care. But check with a health care provider if symptoms last beyond 10 days or if symptoms aren’t relieved by over-the-counter medicines. For more about when to see a doctor, go to CDC’s Flu Page.
To treat colds or flu, get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. If you have the flu, pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen can reduce fever or aches. Allergies can be treated with antihistamines or decongestants. See the “Wise Choices” box for more details.
Be careful to avoid “drug overlap” when taking medicines that list 2 or more active ingredients on the label. For example, if you take 2 different drugs that contain acetaminophen—one for a stuffy nose and the other for headache—you may be getting too much acetaminophen.
“Read medicine labels carefully—the warnings, side effects, dosages. If you have questions, talk to your doctor or pharmacist, especially if you have children who are sick,” Hauguel says. “You don’t want to overmedicate, and you don’t want to risk taking a medication that may interact with another.”
|Fever||Rare||Usual, high (100-102 °F), sometimes higher, especially in young children); lasts 3-4 days||Never|
|General Aches, Pains||Slight||Usual; often severe||Never|
|Fatigue, Weakness||Sometimes||Usual, can last up to 3 weeks||Sometimes|
|Extreme Exhaustion||Never||Usual, at the beginning of the illness||Never|
|Stuffy, Runny Nose||Common||Sometimes||Common|
|Cough||Common||Common, can become severe||Sometimes|
|Chest Discomfort||Mild to moderate||Common||Rare, except for those with allergic asthma|
|Treatment||Get plenty of rest.
Stay hydrated. (Drink plenty of fluids.)
Aspirin (ages 18 and up), acetaminophen, or ibuprofen for aches and pains
|Get plenty of rest.
Aspirin (ages 18 and up), acetaminophen, or ibuprofen for aches, pains, and fever
Antiviral medicines (see your doctor)
|Avoid allergens (things that you’re allergic to)
|Prevention||Wash your hands often.
Avoid close contact with anyone who has a cold.
|Get the flu vaccine each year.
Wash your hands often.
Avoid close contact with anyone who has the flu.
|Avoid allergens, such as pollen, house dust mites, mold, pet dander, cockroaches.|
|Complications||Sinus infection middle ear infection, asthma||Bronchitis, pneumonia; can be life-threatening||Sinus infection, middle ear infection, asthma|
Laryngitis is inflammation (-itis) of the larynx (-laryn). The larynx is also known as the “voice box” because it contains the vocal cords, which are necessary for speech. Located in the throat above the trachea, or windpipe, the vocal cords open and close to create sound.
Symptoms and causes
Many people think that laryngitis is simply losing your voice; however, voice loss is actually a symptom. “Laryngitis is inflammation of the vocal cords. This swelling leads to changes in the voice or complete loss of voice,” Dr. Stacey Silvers of the Madison Skin and Laser Center in New York, told Live Science.
Sometimes, the swelling becomes so bad that the throat becomes blocked, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Speech may also be hoarse, or not possible at all. The throat may feel sore and itchy, as if it needs to be cleared. The patient may also get a fever.
These symptoms typically appear within hours or days of developing a cold or upper respiratory infection such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Colds, which are caused by viruses, are the most common cause of laryngitis. Other viral causes include measles. Although rare, bacterial infections, such as diphtheria, can also cause laryngitis.
Certain activities may strain the vocal cords to cause inflammation and lead to laryngitis. Examples of these types of activities include yelling at a sporting event or concert and working as a professional singer.
Silvers points out that all causes of laryngitis cause hoarseness, but not all hoarseness is laryngitis. Vocal polyps (seen in smokers and people with chronic acid reflux), nodules (from years of improper vocal use), tumors (benign or malignant) and trauma to the outside of the neck can cause inflammation or fracture of the laryngeal cartilage, leading to hoarseness. Patients can have vocal neurological issues, as well, that can lead to parasthesia or vocal weakness. For example, Parkinson’s patients often have hoarseness, with vocal tremor and nerve paralysis. Anything that irritates, inflames, blocks or weakens the vocal bands (cords), will lead to hoarseness, Silvers said.
When laryngitis persists for three or more weeks, it is considered chronic. Bulimia, alcohol abuse and smoking, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD or acid reflux) and sinusitis cause chemicals to come in repeated contact with the vocal cords, which damages the cords over time.
Symptoms such as fever, difficulty swallowing, high-pitched breathing noises and more drooling than normal in children should be taken seriously. They may be signs of croup, which is a life-threatening condition. Parents should get the child immediate medical attention, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Diagnosis and tests
Laryngitis is diagnosed through a physical examination. A physician will listen to the sound of the voice, and in a technique called laryngoscopy, she will use a small mirror and a light to peer at the back of throat. Redness and swelling are typically visible.
A newer, slightly more invasive procedure called endoscopy is sometimes used to make a diagnosis. Endoscopy allows the physician to view the vocal cords in motion. In this procedure, a doctor uses a skinny, bendable tube called an endoscope that is equipped with a mini camera and light at its end. The physician inserts the endoscope in the nose or mouth and it extends into the throat. For individuals with chronic laryngitis, testing for cancer may be recommended.
Treatment and medication
Laryngitis is usually not serious. Resting the vocal cords and avoiding irritants can often resolve symptoms. In some cases, cough suppressants or antibiotics (if the infection is bacterial) may be prescribed.
Corticosteroids may also be described for infants with laryngitis related to croup or to adults who need to speak for work or other urgent matters. “Steroids can reduce inflammation as well, as long as the underlying problem is addressed,” said Silvers.
Alternative and at-home therapies
Staying hydrated and avoiding harsh fluids like alcohol and caffeine will also promote healing. In addition to drinking fluids, sore-throat lozenges, salt water and gum, all of which increase the production of saliva, can relieve itchiness in the throat. Breathing moist air from a humidifier or even a hot shower can also relieve symptoms.
Things to avoid are any activities that dry out the nose, mouth and throat. For example, decongestants, like those found in over-the-counter products taken for a runny nose, can further aggravate the vocal cords.
Many think that whispering is the key to healing when afflicted with laryngitis. According to the Mayo Clinic, whispering can make symptoms worse as it causes more strain on vocal cords than speaking normally. Still, although individuals are encouraged to talk in a normal voice, both talking and singing should be kept to a minimum to give the vocal cords time to heal.
- Mayo Clinic: Laryngitis
- National Institutes of Health: Laryngitis
- University of Michigan: 7 Things to Know about Preventing, Treating Winter Laryngitis
|Table of Contents > Conditions > Laryngitis|
|Causes||Signs and Symptoms||Risk Factors||Diagnosis||Treatment Approach||Other Considerations||Supporting Research|
When you have laryngitis, your larynx or voice box and the area around it becomes inflamed, irritated, and swollen. The swelling of your vocal chords causes them to make distorted sounds, so that your voice sounds hoarse. You may find yourself unable to speak above a whisper, or even lose your voice entirely.
Laryngitis rarely causes serious problems in adults. It is usually caused by a cold or other virus and goes away by itself within 2 to 3 weeks. But it can cause complications in children, notably croup, a swelling of the throat that narrows the airways and causes a “barking” cough. Chronic hoarseness could also be a sign of something more serious.
Certain viruses or bacteria can infect the larynx and cause it to swell. Usually, the virus comes from another illness, such as a cold, the flu, or bronchitis. Laryngitis can also occur from using the voice too much (singing or shouting). Chronic laryngitis can be caused by heavy smoking, excessive alcohol use, or acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD), caused when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus.
Signs and Symptoms
- Loss of voice
- Tickling, scratchiness, and rawness in your throat
- A constant urge to clear your throat
- Overusing your voice
- Having an upper respiratory infection like a cold, flu, or bronchitis
Your doctor will examine your throat and take a culture if it looks infected. If you have had laryngitis for a long time, especially if you are a smoker, your doctor may do a test called a laryngoscopy, using a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera to look in the back of your throat.
In most cases, you can treat laryngitis yourself by resting your voice. Antibiotics are not recommended because most cases of laryngitis are caused by a virus.
- Rest your voice for a week or so. DO NOT whisper, as that puts more strain on your vocal chords.
- If you smoke, stop.
- Avoid clearing your throat as much as possible.
- Avoid drinking alcohol.
- Use a humidifier or inhale steam from a bowl of hot water.
- Keep your throat moist by sucking on lozenges or chewing gum.
- Gargle several times a day with ½ tsp. of salt in a glass of warm water.
Medications are rarely needed for laryngitis. However, depending on the cause of your laryngitis, your doctor may prescribe:
Antibiotics. For laryngitis resulting from a bacterial infection.
Antihistamines or inhaled steroids. For laryngitis resulting from allergies.
Nutrition and Dietary Supplements
Since supplements may have side effects or interact with medications, you should only take them under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.
Some herbs may help shorten the length of a cold or possibly lessen your chances of getting one, which might also help your throat if your laryngitis is due to a cold.
- Honey. Honey has been used traditionally to soothe a sore or irritated throat. It is usually added to a warm herbal tea. Never give honey to an infant under the age of 1.
- Zinc lozenges. Some people may find that sucking on zinc lozenges improves symptoms. If you do decide to try zinc lozenges, remember that getting too much zinc (more than 50 mg per day over a long period of time) can be dangerous.
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care practitioner.
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus). Eucalyptus is used in many remedies to treat cold symptoms, particularly cough, but it may also help soothe a sore or irritated throat. It can be found in many lozenges, cough syrups, and vapor baths throughout the United States and Europe. You can also use fresh leaves in teas and gargles to soothe sore throats. DO NOT take eucalyptus oil by mouth because it can be poisonous.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra). Licorice root is a traditional treatment for sore throat, although scientific evidence is lacking. Licorice interacts with a number of medications, so ask your doctor before taking it. People with high blood pressure, kidney disease, liver disease, or heart disease, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and those who take blood thinners, such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin), should not take licorice.
Marshmallow (Althea officinalis). Although scientific evidence is lacking, marshmallow has been used traditionally to treat sore throat and cough. It contains mucilage, which coats the throat and may help relieve irritation. Marshmallow can potentially interfere with several medications, including lithium. It can also potentially reduce blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes or hypoglycemia, speak with your doctor. DO NOT take marshmallow at the same time of day as prescription medications.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita). Like eucalyptus, peppermint is widely used to treat cold symptoms. Its main active agent, menthol, is a good decongestant, but peppermint is also soothing for sore throats and dry coughs. DO NOT use peppermint or menthol with infants. DO NOT take peppermint oil by mouth.
Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva). Although scientific evidence is lacking, slippery elm may help ease a sore throat and has been used traditionally for this purpose. Like marshmallow, it contains mucilage, which coats the throat and relieves irritation. Slippery elm may also affect how your body absorbs some medications, so wait at least one hour after taking any other medications before taking slippery elm. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid slippery elm.
Some people may find relief gargling these teas:
- Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
- Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)
There have been few studies examining the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. A professional homeopath, however, may recommend one or more of the following treatments for laryngitis based on his or her knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person’s constitutional type. In homeopathic terms, a person’s constitution is their physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual.
- Aconitum. For laryngitis that comes on after exposure to cold and may be accompanied by a dry cough.
- Allium cepa. For hoarseness associated with a cold and clear, watery discharge.
- Argenticum nitricum. For laryngitis in nervous, restless individuals that may be brought on by yelling or singing.
- Causticum. Most commonly used remedy for individuals who have laryngitis, particularly with mucus in the throat or laryngitis due to overuse of the voice; coughing is aggravated by chilly weather and relieved by cold drinks; symptoms worsen at night.
- Hepar sulphuricum. For laryngitis with barking cough that worsens in the morning.
- Kali bichromicum. For laryngitis with a cough that is characterized by a stringy yellow mucus; this remedy is most appropriate for individuals who have a tickling sensation in the back of the throat with symptoms that worsen after drinking
- Phosphorus. For individuals with a hoarse, dry cough and a burning sensation in the throat; symptoms tend to be relieved by cold liquids; this remedy is most appropriate for individuals who tend to be nervous if alone and prefer the company of others
Warnings and Precautions
If you have problems breathing or swallowing, or if your throat bleeds, seek emergency medical attention. Call your health care provider if you have a fever above 102°F (38.9°C).
Prognosis and Complications
For adults, laryngitis rarely causes serious problems. However, two conditions that may occur in children include:
- Croup, which narrows the airway passages, causes difficulty breathing, and leads to a “barking” cough.
- Epiglottitis, which is inflammation of the epiglottis, the flap of cartilage at the back of the tongue that closes off the windpipe when swallowing. If it swells, the child may have trouble breathing.
Belongia EA, Berg R, Liu K. A randomized trial of zinc nasal spray for the treatment of upper respiratory illness in adults. Am J Med. 2001;111(2):103-8.
Charuluxananan S, Sumethawattana P, Kosawiboonpol R, Somboonviboon W, Werawataganon T. Effectiveness of lubrication of endotracheal tube cuff with chamomile-extract for prevention of postoperative sore throat and hoarseness. J Med Assoc Thai. 2004 Sep;87 Suppl 2:S185-9.
Douglas RM, Chalker EB, Treacy B. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2000;(2):CD000980.
Ferri: Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2016. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016.
Jackson JL, Lesho E, Peterson C. Zinc and the common cold: a meta-analysis revisited. J Nutr. 2000;130(5S Suppl):1512S-15S.
Kassel JC, King D, Spurling GK. Saline nasal irrigation for acute upper respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Mar 17;(3):CD006821. Review.
Kligler B. Echinacea. Am Fam Physician. 2003;67(1):77-80.
Lindenmuth GF, Lindenmuth EB. The efficacy of echinacea compound herbal tea preparation on the severity and duration of upper respiratory and flu symptoms: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study. J Altern Complement Med. 2000;6(4):327-34.
Mahady GB. Echinacea: recommendations for its use in prophylaxis and treatment of upper respiratory tract infections. Nutr Clin Care. 2001;4(4):199-208.
McElroy BH, Miller SP. Effectiveness of zinc gluconate glycine lozenges against the common cold in school-aged subjects: a retrospective chart review. Am J Ther. 2002;9(6):472-5.
Paul IM, Beiler J, McMonagle A, Shaffer ML, Duda L, Berlin CM. Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(12):1140-6.
Pendleton H, Ahlner-Elmqvist M, Jannert M, Ohlsson B. Posterior laryngitis: a study of persisting symptoms and health-related quality of life. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2013;270(1):187-95.
Prasad AS, Fitzgerald JT, Bao B, Beck FW, Chandrasekar PH. Duration of symptoms and plasma cytokine levels in patients with the common cold treated with zinc acetate. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 2000;133(4):245-52.
Rakel R, Bope E. Rakel & Bope: Conn’s Current Therapy 2008. 60th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders. 2008:61.
Reiter R, Brosch S. Chronic laryngitis-associated factors and voice assessment. Laryngorhinootologie. 2009;88(3):181-5.
Reveiz L, Cardona AF. Antibiotics for acute laryngitis in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;3:CD004783.
Simasek M, Blandino DA. Treatment of the common cold. Am Fam Physician. 2007 Feb 15;75(4):515-20. Review.
Turner RB. Ineffectiveness of intranasal zinc gluconate for prevention of experimental rhinovirus colds. Clin Infect Dis. 2001;33(11):1865-70.
Turner RB, Riker DK, Gangemi JD. Ineffectiveness of Echinacea for prevention of experimental rhinovirus colds. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2000;44:1708-9.
Vaezi MF. Laryngeal manifestations of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2008;10(3):271-7.
Review Date: 2/2/2016
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.