What happens when your vocal chords become swollen? You lose your voice – but how does it happen, and what can you do to fight it? Here are a few pointers.

First of all, we should consider a few symptoms to help you identify laryngitis. Losing your voice is only one issue. You may also have problems with voice pitch (think of a boy going through puberty!), and other symptoms might include frequent coughing and a sore throat. But what causes the loss of your voice?

There are actually many things that can bring laryngitis on. We usually just think of a throat infection (which can be either viral or bacterial), but the other culprit we blame is usually just general voice strain. Maybe you went to a ball game or a concert and yelled loudly for hours. That will definitely do it.

But there are other potential causes – allergies may cause laryngitis, and so can acid reflux. Smoke or even exposure to second hand smoke can be a possible cause. It can also be caused by getting a yeast infection in your vocal chords (this is more common in those who are immunosuppressed or need to frequently use an inhaler).

So what can you do if you get laryngitis? First of all, rest your voice – if you’re experiencing voice strain your vocal chords are particularly likely to need a break. If you have an infection, antibiotics will help restore your voice more quickly. Someone with chronic laryngitis will have to identify the underlying cause and remove it. This may involve quitting smoking, and/or treating allergies and acid reflux.

As frustrating as laryngitis may be, it usually doesn’t last long – but if your condition lingers, especially if it does so after seeking medical attention and following the recommendations of your doctor, it may be time to find an otolaryngologist who can take a look at it for you.