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What Causes Laryngitis?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's the time of year when the flu and common cold start to ramp up. Hennepin Healthcare is seeing an uptick in patients who've lost their voices.

So what causes laryngitis? Good Question.

A hoarse voice made Gayle King miss her show this Wednesday morning. It kept Jason DeRusha home for the two days before that. A few weeks back, Kate Raddatz took a day off to recover.

"You make noise, but nothing comes out," Kate said.

Laryngitis is inflammation of the vocal cords, which live inside the larynx, or voice box. Hoarseness or voice loss is a symptom of laryngitis. It can range from a froggy sound to no sound at all.

Vocal cords are responsible for voice production. As a person breathes air out, vocal cords come together and the air that flows out causes the vocal cords to vibrate, according to Dr. Stephanie Contag, an ear, nose and throat specialist with Hennepin Healthcare.

"When the vocal cords swell, they become stiff and swollen, they lose their ability to vibrate and produce sound," said Dr. Contag. "So we can't produce sound and we sound hoarse."

Laryngitis can be caused by a bacterial infection or other larynx diseases, but it's usually a cold virus that triggers the inflammation. Post-nasal drop causes irritation and swelling and coughing can make it worse.

Dr. Contag said laryngitis is more common in smokers, people with reflux or those who use their voices a lot. Inflammation can also be triggered by voice overuse, like cheering too loudly at a concert or sporting event.

To treat the laryngitis, Dr. Contag recommends plenty of hydration and voice rest. She says hot beverages can help soothe pain.

"If the loss of voice doesn't recover within 7 to 14 days, it's probably time to see your doctor," she said.

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