We all know that annoying feeling in the throat which typically starts with a scratchy sensation and the next thing you know is that you have completely lost your voice. You have laryngitis, a common condition afflicting hundreds of thousands of people annually.
What causes loss of voice or laryngitis?
Laryngitis is the inflammation of the voice box. It usually occurs due to overuse of the vocal cords or sometimes due to an infection of the upper respiratory tract. Chronic hoarseness or laryngitis commonly affects heavy smokers. Ageing is also one of the factors responsible for chronic laryngitis. Singers and entertainers who have to use their voice constantly as well cheerleaders who need to shout frequently are also known to suffer from vocal cord issues such as laryngitis.
Sound is normally formed when the vocal cords open and close and through their vibrations. When we say that “someone has lost his/her voice”, it means that the air escapes when it is not supposed to. Such lost voice may be accompanied by a sore throat, tickling sensation in the throat and swollen voice cords. In case of seasonal laryngitis, one could suffer from mild fever, aches, pains and chills.
Let us now consider some of the most effective home remedies that can help you get back your voice quickly.
Drink plenty of fluids
Fluids help thin down the mucus which can, in turn, help you regain your lost voice quickly. Drink at least 8 glasses of water, preferably warm or hot water. You could also add some honey to it as honey is naturally antibacterial which can help kills germs. You could also drink hot fluids like soups, broths, stews, herbal teas and so on. Some people get relief from drinking cool (not cold) fluids such as fresh juices which help soothe the inflamed throat. If you do not like drinking plain hot water you can:
- Flavor the water
- Drink decaffeinated tea/coffee-herbal and green tea with a dash of lemon juice are best
- Eat fruits having high water content such as melons, cucumbers, cantaloupes etc
Gargle with salt and hot water solution
Grandma’s sore throat remedy of gargling with hot salt water is indeed one of the most effective remedies to help one regain their lost voice. Salt acts as an antiseptic and soothes the inflamed voice box. It also sterilizes bacteria in the throat and reduces mucus formation. To make salt water gargling solution, add ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt to a glass of hot water and gargle with it three to four times a day.
Gargle with mouthwash
Mouthwash also contains antibacterial properties that can work on the back of your throat and kill the laryngitis causing germs. This is one of the easiest home remedies to regain your lost voice.
Use a humidifier
If cold weather and seasonal flu is the cause of your lost voice, you can use a humidifier at night time. Room humidity should ideally be between 30-50%. Do ensure using hot water vaporizers instead of cool mist humidifiers which tend to circulate the germs in the rooms and aggravate the sore throat. The hot moisture from heat vaporizers on the other hand prevent your throat from drying up further without circulating the germ-laden air. This can help you regain your voice overnight. You could also stand in the shower with stream of hot water on to inhale the steam and soothe throat and nasal passage. You could even immerse a washcloth in hot water, wring out the excess and hold the towel over your mouth and breathe the steam. If you have a personal steamer (readily available at drugstores) you can inhale the steam in through it every few hours. This will moisten the dried passage and help you regain your lost voice quickly.
Suck on lozenges
Zinc based lozenges and cough drops help soothe the inflamed throat and voice box and also kill the germs. You can easily buy over-the-counter lozenges and suck on them every few hours to help regain your lost voice. Do avoid lozenges or cough drops containing Menthol and Eucalyptus as these tend to dry up the throat and aggravate laryngitis. Instead, use glycerin or slippery elm based lozenges that hydrate and heal the voice box.
Use nasal decongestant
In many cases, the reason behind the sore throat is blocked nose. So use an inhaler or spray in some nasal drops containing saline water inside the nostrils to relieve blocked nose. Once your nose opens up, you will find it a lot easier to breathe which will, in turn, help you regain your lost voice quickly.
Rest your voice
Rest your body and your voice box if you are suffering from painful sore throat. This is especially important for entertainers, presenters or professionals who need to shout at work. Resting the vocal cords can help you regain your lost voice quickly. If your job requires you to talk a lot, it is best to take the day off and stay at home. Talking will only aggravate your condition and increase the hoarseness. It is especially important to avoid talking in a noisy environment. If you are present in one, get close to the person you are speaking to, before talking. This is one of the easiest ways to prevent lost voice and hoarseness of throat.
Take mucolytic medicines
Many mucolytic medicines are readily available over-the counter and they can help reduce hoarseness. They work by diluting the mucus and flushing it out of the body. If needed, you could ask your doctor to prescribe stronger mucolytic meds to keep the mucus light and slippery. These can help you regain your voice overnight.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine
Both alcohol and caffeine are dehydrating beverages which can dry up the mucus and aggravate your sore throat. So steer clear of these drinks if you have sore throat or you want to prevent one. As stated before, drink herbal tea or/and hot water with a dash of honey and lemon. You can even sip cool beverages such as juices to soothe the inflamed throat.
Take pain relieving medicines
If your sore throat is accompanied by pain and difficulty in swallowing, take some over-the-counter Ibuprofen or Tylenol (acetaminophen) to relieve it. Note that certain pain medicines have a drying effect on the body. So drink more water than you normally do to counter the dryness.
Avoid throat clearing
It is very tempting to try and clear the throat, thinking it will help you get rid of hoarseness and regain your lost voice. However, constant harsh throat clearing can actually be traumatic to the vocal cords. The reason why you feel the need to clear the throat is mucus. By increasing your water intake, you can easily get rid of mucus. You can also take mucus thinning medicines like Mucinex but make sure you continue drinking 6-8 glasses of water to help the medicine do its job. You can also do the following to clear your throat:
- Use gentle throat clearing without forcing the breath
- Take sips of water throughout the day
- Hum a bit
- Laugh gently
- Avoid whispering as it puts even more pressure on the throat
- Pant lightly, laugh gently then swallow the mucus
- Lastly, be aware when you are clearing your throat. This is especially very important for entertainers and singers who want to get back their lost voice without straining their vocal cords.
Tips for entertainers and singers
If you are a singer, get voice-training if your voice quality is important. Follow your trainer’s instructions regarding hydration and allergy management. Take care of your body by getting adequate rest, exercise and following a healthy diet. Eat soft and easy to swallow foods. Warm up your voice before singing and always use amplifiers during rehearsal. Where needed, use hand signals and printed messages when communicating instructions to others.
Smoking, including second hand or inhaled smoke, can aggravate throat dryness and even lead to long term tissue damage. So stay away from tobacco and related products.
Get rid of allergies
Treating the underlying allergy is an essential part of regaining your lost voice. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, talk to your doctor about ways of controlling them. There are many effective prescription medicines that can help you manage pollen and dust related allergies. Also, continue inhaling steam and gargling. If possible, invest in a HEPA air filter to reduce allergens in your environment.
Avoid getting sick
A common cause of throat soreness is seasonal flu, coughs and colds. So wash your hands frequently in winters. If needed, keep a hand sanitizer to clean your hands. Avoid touching public surfaces and visiting public restrooms. Do make a conscious attempt not to touch your face, nose, eyes and mouth. This is an essential remedy to prevent throat ache and soreness. Also avoid sharing eating and drinking utensils to prevent transmission of bacteria. Do use disposable tissues if you have sneezing, coughing or runny nose.
When to seek care?
Persistent sore throat accompanied by fever, aches and pains could signal something more serious such as Strep throat or Mono. If you have the following signs and symptoms, seek medical help immediately:
- Fever above 102 F
- Cough or sore throat that persists for more than 10 days
- Yellow, green or bluish-green sputum
- Shortness of breath
Your health care provider may take a throat culture in order to diagnose strep throat. Antibiotics may be then prescribed based on the results. In some extreme cases, polyps and folds on the vocal box can also lead to lost voice and hoarseness. In such cases, surgery may be the only solution for treating your laryngitis. We hope these aforementioned home remedies to get your voice back bring you much needed relief. Good luck!