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Favorite laryngitis cures?

I have completely, utterly, totally lost my voice.  Nothing comes out but white noise.  I have never seen anybody with such bad laryngitis.  Usually people can get something out.  This is coming at the tail end of a bad cold with a sore throat.  I have been tested for strep (negative), and the doctor has declared me viral and told me to treat the symptoms and wait it out.  So this is a wonderful opportunity to share favorite home remedies!  Tis the season of colds and viruses!  What's your favorite comfort treatment?  Mine:  hot mulled apple cider with generous cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, and a spoonful of honey.  
Replies (23): Threaded | Chronological
on November 17, 2014 12:16pm
About 8-10 years ago, in my mid 50s, I started losing my voice completely, instead of having the one or two light colds per season which I had had up to then.  It's as if the wee beasties just decided as a group that they like my larnyx better than my upper throat.  It's strange--I haven't had cold symptoms in years; no sore throat, no sinus problems.  But I can count on total laryngitis, and the only question is if it will hold off 'til after the December concert.  (Very interesting when it doesn't!)  Within a few days I lose my voice, and that can last 3 weeks, then my voice comes back and is usable, but then I have a persistent strong "tickle" and cough when I exhale, and that can take another few weeks to subside completely. 
Initially, I was told it was viral, and I don't like taking medication, but after a few years, the laryngitis was lasting longer, so I went to another doctor and asked for a culture, to see if it were bacterial, and thus vulnerable to antibiotics.  Based on my description and his examination he said no culture was needed, this was definitely bacterial.  He prescribed what he said was the standard antibiotic for this--amoxycillin, or something like that.  It's been replaced by a newer antibiotic the last two or three years.  He also prescribed a steroid to help the process, but I can't remember specifically what that was for.  That raised concerns, but he assured me it was nothing like the steroids that athletes abuse.   With this treatment, my voice begins to clear within two days, and usually is restored in a week.  The persistent after-cough goes too.
His theory was that I overuse my voice, abrading and exposing tissue, which then becomes easily infected by all the germs that are passed around in a school.  He said it began to occur, and was lasting longer, because of my age, and that I was fortunate my body threw it off during my first few years of teaching.   He could not explain why I no longer get colds. 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on November 17, 2014 3:46pm
Dear Maggie:
 My favorite remedy for a sore throat and/or lost voice is to add pure maple syrup to one's favorite hot beverage. Now by "maple syrup", I mean the real Vermont/NH/Me. stuff... not corn syrup, or that commercialized pancake junk.
 This works with coffee, tea or hot cocoa... Two or three cups throughout the day, and your voice is back in business in a day, maybe two...
 Ron Isaacson
Germantown MD
on November 18, 2014 7:20am
Hi Maggie - Years ago when I was still teaching I used to take our school's show choir and stage band to a music festival on the other side of the state. We were gone for three days, and on the afternoon of the second day we always had a band vs choir baseball game. As you probably figured out, the choir sang the following morning. Remedy was hot water, honey, and lemon juice. Seemed to work every time. Hope you find what works for you.
Happy Holidays to all,
Rich Nutting
Applauded by an audience of 1
on November 18, 2014 9:57pm
The symptom of complete loss of voice means that your viral infection was severe (a bunch of viruses attached themselves particularly to the epidermal cells of your vocal fold tissues and used those cells' reproductive processes to replicate themselves and spreading out to more and more cells). As you know, there are zero medications that can "root out" and kill viruses. Our immune systems have to do that for us. Usually takes immune systems four to seven days to get rid of the "common cold" viruses IF..... the infectee's immune system is allowed unfettered access to them bad guys.
In your case, as those infective processes gradually multiplied, your immune system engaged more and more of its cells and biochemicals to seek out, kill, and "gobble up" those viruses for elimination, but it was overwhelmed at first. In order to be more effective in the fight, some of your immune system biochemicals produced inflammation in the vocal folds inside your larynx (the suffix -itis means that inflammation has occurred in the body part that is named before the suffix = laryngitis, bronchitis). Vocal fold inflammation includes accumulations of liquid within the superficial layer of your vocal fold tissues. We all refer to that symptom as vocal fold swelling. That swelling "balloons" vocal folds to a larger than normal size and thereby stiffens the surface tissues of the vocal folds. With increased swelling/stiffening, those surface tissues become less and less able to vibrate. Vocal fold vibration is actually rapidly repeating, complex ripple-waving motions that simultaneously flow over the tissue surfaces of the two folds. So, severe swelling would keep the ripple-waving from happening in the first place. Moderate inflammation/stiffrening produces tonal 'gaps' that we call hoarseness. Severe inflammation/stiffening produces aphonia (no vocal sound; just white noise, as you aptly wrote).
So what can we do to assiist our immune systems to get them dang bad guys out of us and end that inflammation (eliminate vocal fold swelling)?  AND...what can we stop doing that interferes with those immune processes, slows down healing, and makes viral infections last longer?
Two necessary interconnected treatments for loss of voice, or for hoarse voice with limited upper pitch range: (1) drink warm to non-scalding hot liquids that are substantially non-carbonated water without caffeine, and (2) minimal-as-possible stress, plus lots of restful sleep for a few days (Ooooooo, right?).
[BIG IMPORTANT NOTE: In the neuropsychological sense, stress is any 'demand' that is made on our bodies. Writing and reading this note demands the engagement of quite a few neural processes = a stress. Two types of stress response by us humans and animals: distress (relatively intense physical activities and responses to unpleasant or threatening experiences, literal or potential) and eustress (restorative physical experiences, massage for example, and responses to pleasant or rewarding experiences, literal or potential). Both categories can be highly stressful, but distresses are usually more demanding.] Research has confirmed that higher levels of stress--especially distress--can suppress immune system effectiveness, can result in greater susceptability to respiratory infections, and thus can increase the severity of a body's response to infection.]
[ANOTHER BIG IMPORTANT NOTE: Cells and biochemicals of the immune system are replenished during the stage of sleep that is called slow-wave sleep (SWS). Feeling lousy during an infection is our bodies telling us that we need to shut down and let its immune system do unfettered work at getting those nasties out of us.
So....,where does going to work as a teacher fall within those categories of stress? Can teachers 'afford' to take time away from teaching to enable immune systems to do what it's there for? I've reacted both ways, and taking days off is soooooooooooooo much better than "riding it out" at work out of a misplaced sense of "duty." [By doing "stress innoculators" and "stress busters," we can substantially build and maintain a strong immune system and avoid getting sick.]
Summary, Maggie:
1. Take days off and sleep a lot.
2. Drink plenty of warm liquids that are substantially water like soups and various favorite water-liquid comfort treatments.
Be well,
Applauded by an audience of 11
on November 19, 2014 8:43am
Yes to everything Leon wrote.  In addition, eat as much and as many of the foods that are high in magnesium as you possibly can, each and every meal.  Here is a good website that lists the foods highest in magnesium; scroll down the page to see more.  Most of these also contain good amounts of zinc, another essential nutrient for your immune system (and all other systems):
Google the keywords "magnesium immune system" for more info.
on November 28, 2014 2:21pm
Agree, agree! I had to laugh about the sleep part, since sicknesses like to do nasty things that interrupt or prevent sleep, such as coughing. (I will cough regardless of positioning. Even sitting vertical, I'll still cough as soon as I try to sleep! It takes super strong prescription strength Prometh cough syrup to stop it.) 
on November 18, 2014 9:59pm
My treatment for sore throat and laryngitis is gargling:
10 oz of comfortably hot water, plus 1 tsp salt and 3/4 tsp. vinegar.
The hot water plus salt is very healing.  The vinegar cuts the mucous
in the throat.   Sit on the floor in front of the toilet stool so you can really irrigate
your throat.   If you are home, do it every 2 hours.   If you are
not at home, it's kinda hard to do, but do it in the evening, and even during
the night.  
Do this plus drinking 8 oz. of hot water every 2 hours.   That flushes
out your body of all the toxins.    
If you have a cough that keeps you awake at night, take 1 vicodin, or even a 1/2 of
vicodin, and that helps a lot to squealch the cough. 
I have a daughter who is a nurse practitioner, and she gave me some of these tips.
We are all under added pressure when preparing for programs.   Then our resistance
gets low because of lack of enough rest and sleep.   
So be well--get well--stay well.
Ruth Bergstrom Jones
Lancaster, CA
Applauded by an audience of 1
on November 19, 2014 5:32am
Something i have recommended for my singers and has helped me is eating a spoonful of honey several times a day.  Last year I had a baritone that lost his voice and 2 days before our Christmas concert he told me he wasn't going to be able to sing because he had no voice.  I told him not to decide yet and do the honey.  It worked and he sang!  He couldn't believe it.  (he said afterwards to the choir that the only problem was that he was now addicted to honey.)
The other thing that helps is hot pineapple juice.  It is also good for a tired voice, too.
Good luck and get well.
on November 19, 2014 1:02pm
I'm feeling much better, and after 3 days of no voice, I'm back to a weak croak.  Thank you all who contributed recipes to the cure.  Unfortunately, I've passed it on to my partner...  so keep those hot drink ideas coming for him, and the rest of the cold-sufferers!  It's good to have them archived here.  -M. Furtak
on November 19, 2014 1:28pm
My recommendation is to use a neti pot, fairly frequently (as in a couple of times a day), parricularly when you feel the symptoms of a cold coming on.  I think it is a little more effective than gargling, because it rinses out your sinuses and keeps the gunk from flowing down your throat.  Also, my new discovery is turmeric and honey.  Put a few ounces of turmeric into a little jar or tupperware, sprinkle in lots of black pepper, and make a paste of the spices with honey.  Take a half teaspoon or so every hour or two.
Let it melt on your tongue.
Another soothing drink is warmed orange juice with a squeeze of lemon and some fresh ginger.
Best of luck to you!  I know the horrible frustration!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on November 19, 2014 2:54pm
I had never had any long lasting laryngitis until 2009. A doctor, long ago recommended I wear a hat so done so with success. But in 2009, despite all my best efforts, I was always having difficulties which hope and voodoo would not assuage. I told my doctor of my frustration and he scoped and found nothing. I was ready to go anywhere and spend any amount for a "real" voice doc. He wanted further clarification about what I called "real" and told me of a practice right across the street. Got there, his collegue saw me. When I told him that I was a singer and he said that he would not treat me because I was a singer but, his colleague would. He also appended what to my ears sounded like the crack of doom, NODES, and that, were not a singer he would "strip" the vocal cords and be done. 
I did see the other doctor and the good news was that there were no nodules but that I had thrush on my vocal cords possibly caused by previous, supervised use of steroidal nasal spray which I had stopped sometime before.  It took some weeks to finally subside but eventually, I was fine but shaken. Very shaken.
on November 20, 2014 3:44am
This may not apply to a serious condition like yours, but I have found this link to be very interesting:
on November 21, 2014 6:03am
Okay, what am I missing here? Would somebody explain to me how ANYTHING ingested via the esophagus has any immediate or direct beneficial effect on the vocal cords which are located in the larynx at the top of the trachea which is shut off by the closure of the epiglottis during the swallowing process? The only thing I have read throughout all of this exchange is the article that Olav Vahtras cites that warns of "remedies" that numb the pain. The term "sore throat" is ambiguous. Does this refer to the esophagus when someone is experiencing pain? At least theoretically pain during swallowing should have no effect on vocal production because these are two distinct parts of the body. If someone is experiencing excessive coughing, that is an indication of a serious issue that does effect vocal production, because the primary purpose of the vocal cords is to protect the lungs and expell foreign matter from the airway. Phonation is way down the list of vocal cord functions. With regard to nodes or nodules, even if they are removed surgically, the cause of their formation must still be addressed, which is where vocal therapy comes into play. The best thing that can be said for all of the remedies suggested regarding what to drink is the psychological effect they may have on the singer. They may help the singer feel better, but they still do not directly effect the cords. Reduction of swelling ("laryngitis"--inflammation or swelling of the larynx or vocal cords) can be addressed by taking any anti-inflammatory medication. Find the best and most appropriate way to address the cause of the problem and then rest and allow the cords to heal.
Applauded by an audience of 4
on November 21, 2014 1:49pm
I believe the idea is that anything that helps ease the general sore throat and cold symptoms is speeding healing of your body as a whole, allowing your immune system to get to work on your vocal chords.  If I've got a virus, and I wrap up warm, that's one less stress on my body, so it can concentrate on fighting my flu virus.  Good nursing is always important.  And there's a reason that you go to an ear, nose, and throat doctor; and not a throat, foot, and appendix doctor.  Respiratory viruses frequently transition over time from runny nose to sore throat to bronchitis or pneumonia.  All those pipes are connected to each other, infections pass easily from one part to the next, and your body's immune response in one part can irritate an adjacent part.  I must say that the warm beverages have definitely had an immediate soothing effect on my sore throat even if they didn't magically restore my voice, and were recommended by my doctor, as well as folks here, to help nurse my cold along.  Cheers!  I raise my steaming mug!
on November 23, 2014 7:53am
I'm always leery of hearing this type of advice as well. Numbing your throat in order to abuse your already stressed vocal chords is so dangerous. It's like poking someone at 440 cycles per second and then when it starts to hurt them, give them something that numbs the pain so you can poke them some more. Ouch!
.: John David Maybury
on November 23, 2014 12:07pm
But we aren't talking about numbing agents here, John.  Vocal rest is taken as a given and we've moved on to discussing hot beverages.  When you have a cold with a sore throat, they serve in a number of ways.  They keep you well-hydrated.  (Important any time you are sick.)  They help wash the mucus out of your throat which is causing irritation.  This often also temporarily quiets a cough, if you are coughing from that annoying tickle in your throat.  (Coughing is pretty terrible for your vocal chords.)  They steam open your nose and sinuses to relieve stuffiness and pressure.  Heat allows your capillaries to dialate and your body to speed the localized immune reaction.  (Your body does this naturally as a part of it's usual immune response.  That's why you can feel heat around a sprained ankle, for example.  It allows increased bloodflow which speeds healing.)  And, depending on what exactly you are drinking, a hot drink can physically coat the throat so that future post-nasal drip doesn't continue to irritate your skin.  We are not talking about something that numbs the skin, acting on your nerves, but about things which protect skin that has been roughed up from continuing damage.  Unlike certain over-the-counter medications which work by counter-acting your body's immune response and may slow healing as a result, a hot drink (and other "mom" cures, like rest and bundling up) allow your body to continue it's assault on the germs, while protecting you from the unintended side effects of that assault.  It's a good tool to shorten the life of your cold and help your body heal itself.  We aren't talking about giving a bleeding soldier a dose of heroin so that they will charge back onto the field, heedless of their gunshot wound.  We are talking about bandaging the soldier and sending them to bed, in the hopes that they will recover quickly and fully.  (I'm surprised this topic has generated so much controversy!  Who knew?)
Applauded by an audience of 1
on November 21, 2014 1:19pm
Glad you are feeling better, Maggie. 
Chronic hoarseness can be caused by a number of things including bacteria, viruses, vocal fold dysfunction, exposure to environmental irritants, etc., etc. 
A cause that may be overlooked is acid reflux.
During the night stomach acid can emerge from the esophagus and get on the vocal folds and burn them. In worse case scenarios the stomach acid is aspirated and one feels like they are choking. It comes with an awful burning sensation. "Cures" include raising the head of the bed several inches (highly recommended) as well as taking a proton pump inhibitor such as Prilosec to reduce the amount of acid. Sleep on your back or left side to help keep the acid in your stomach. While it is true that an anti-inflammatory medication will reduce inflammation and edema, they will also further irritate the stomach. Food trigers for heartburn are greasy/fatty foods and acidic foods. Spices are usually not a direct cause, but spices are often found in fatty foods.
Sinus drip is a common problem that can irritate not just the nasopharynx but the vocal fodls as well, because the mucus can pool in the back of the throat.
To reduce inflammation the old-fashion gargle with warm saltwater really does work, but relief is temporary. As far as concoctions made with honey/lemon/tea, etc., they only provide superficial relief as they sooth the inflammation somewhat. Because lemons are acidic, they can be a further irritant. While lemon juice seems to cut the thickness of mucus, I don't recommend it because of acidity.
Lastly, keep yourself very well hydrated. Remember antihistamines dry out all tissues, not just one's nose. Water is best for hydration.
Kenneth S. Klaus
Nicholls State University
on November 21, 2014 1:55pm
(In case it wasn't clear, I've lost my voice from a nasty and extended cold virus, not from over-use.  In the case of over-use, yes, I agree, a warm drink isn't nearly as important as vocal rest and better technique in future.)
on November 22, 2014 9:58am
Wait, drink (water, tea, juice, etc), and pee--  The doctor was right in saying you must wait it out.  (I take it the doctor scoped your vocal chords to make sure there's nothing further going on.)  A little phelpm on the cords can really leave you out of commission until the bug, virus, whatever clears up.  However, it's also very very important to "shut up"--  don't try to get something out.  Rest your throat.  Rest your vocal chords, and just rest.  If you need to learn music, this is the time for silent study or sitting at the piano and learning notes and rhythms silently.  (A good practice anyway--)  It is terribly frustrating to be a singer and to be out of commission.  It feels like it will never go away--  But it will.  And it's important to not hammer away at your voice to try to force it into submission.  One of the best things for you to do would be to breath steam.  You can sit at the bathroom sink with a towel over your head, use a tea-kettle, or best yet-- get a facial sauna at your local pharmacy (they're sold for opening your pores and removing makeup).  You put a little water in the reservoir and turn it on and breath.  Do it a number of times a day--
on November 22, 2014 10:33am
The hot beverage, whatever your choice, soothes the throat no matter the vocal folds are a bit further down.  In addition, the more you drink, the thinner your secretions--the phlegm, gunk, whatever you call it--and that's good.  An indicator that you are on the right track is you are peeing more....yep, that's right, you know what I wrote.....and are peeing pale.  We can all speak of flushing of the system but thinning of the secretions is the real issue because the thinner the secretions the less likely they are to cause trouble.
I  personally sleep with a room humidifer, no matter what my health status, from the beginning of November to about mid-March, depending on the winter weather.  If the nasel/vocal passages are dried out, they are more susceptible to germs. Since I've been doing this, I have less colds and other issues.  Yep, it can be messy and a hassle but is worth it in the long run.
And lest you are thinking these are just Old Wives Tales, please note this Old Wife is married to an ENT Doc and the *peeing pale* comment was made by a pretty well known laryngoligist friend of ours!
on November 22, 2014 1:50pm
The best thing for a sore throat is the best singers' ENT.  Use them as you would your primary care physician.  I am fortunate to live in an area which has many ENT doctors and a fine opera company.  I asked the opera singers for the name of their favorite ENT.  The resulting list contained nine names.  Of those names, three were most mentioned.  I made appointments with two of them.  While both were truly excellent, one was closer to home.  Regular check-ups and calls when sick keep horrible sore throats from occurring along with not using my hand directly on door knobs/pulls and washing my hands often.  It has been ages since I was sick with a bad cold. 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on November 23, 2014 7:28pm
Many good replies here.  
To vocal rest, I would add:  drink hot water all day long; warm the larynx when you go to bed with hot water bottle - when it cools, drop it to the floor (obviously, don't burn yourself...); keep head and neck warm day and night - wear a scarf; steam, steam, steam - heat sinuses, pharynx and larynx by inhaling steam.  I use a Vicks Steam Inhaler.  I also use NielMed Sinus Rinse a couple times a week.  
Meditate on Peace.  Relax the body.    
on November 23, 2014 10:55pm
My grandmother's (and that of many Indian singers) SUREFIRE recipe is to add to a cup of drinkably hot milk some turmeric powder and some unrefined jaggery (also known as gur or panela). This delicious mix should be fairly deeply yellow and well sweetened. Take a small mouthful and swallow slowly.  Both can be bought from Indian stores or from amazing Amazon.  Okay you may think this a bit tedious to procure but once bought, both will last for years. 
Actually with a little less turmeric and jaggery, it makes delicious and healthy milk drink - very acceptable !
My own quick fix is a mix of brandy and honey   ----- but go easy on the brandy, huh?
Nariman H. Wadia
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