Laryngitis (infectious inflammation of the throat) is a relatively common infectious disease that affects both children and adults. The larynx is a part of the airways. Downwards, it opens into trachea and upwards, it borders with nasopharynx, from which it is divided by the laryngeal flap (epiglottis). However, the larynx is not just a kind of connector between the nasopharynx and the trachea. In contains two important ligaments known as vocal cords. The ligaments vibrate by exhaled air and help to form human speech.
The most common cause of acute laryngitis is a viral infection that spreads in inhaled droplets. The virus can weaken the mucosal defense and that is why it is frequently followed by bacterial laryngitis. Chronic laryngitis is usually related to smoking.
The disease manifests with classical flu-like symptoms including fever, fatigue, muscle pain and joint pain. In addition, the inflammation irritates the larynx and vocal cords causing hoarseness, cough (rather dry), pain during swallowing and sore throat. Acute laryngitis in children can have very dramatic manifestations including strong cough and shortness of breath.
In addition to the symptoms, it is advisable to swab the airways to confirm or exclude presence of causative bacteria. In blood tests, it is advisable to evaluate the level of CRP (marker of inflammation). Its slight increase is more typical for viral infections, while a significant increase is likely in bacterial infections.
Acute viral laryngitis can be treated only symptomatically by rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and antitussives. Warm compress of the neck also bring relief. When the infection is bacterial, antibiotics are the drugs of choice.
Children with severe manifestation should be taken to a doctor for at least a basic examination to rule out the dangerous epiglottitis. Effective first aid in a child with acute laryngitis is opened window and breathing clean and cool air. The cool air soothes the irritated throat and significantly relieves the child.