Laryngitis means inflammation of the vocal cords. A person with laryngitis may notice changes to their voice and pain when they talk or swallow. Some people with COVID-19 may experience these symptoms. Laryngitis can occur due to COVID-19 itself or another cause, such as smoking.

Laryngitis causes inflammation of the vocal cords, which are bands of tissue that vibrate to generate vocal sounds. Inflamed vocal cords can cause voice changes, throat pain, and difficulty swallowing or talking.

People with COVID-19 may experience these symptoms as a side effect of the condition.

A virus is the most common cause of laryngitis. Other causes of laryngitis can include an irritated throat, bacterial infection, and gastroesophageal reflux.

Keep reading to learn more about laryngitis and its connection with COVID-19.

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Data from the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app indicates that some people experience a hoarse voice with COVID-19, which could be laryngitis.

The study suggests voice hoarseness with COVID-19 becomes more likely with age. They estimate that 13% of children, 29% of people 16–35 years, and 32% of adults over 35 years experience a hoarse voice.

COVID-19 causes symptoms that could lead to inflamed vocal cords, such as a sore throat or cough. People who smoke may be more likely to develop this complication, as smoking is a risk factor for laryngitis.

A 2021 opinion piece has called for greater recognition of vocal cord symptoms in people with COVID-19. The article highlights how vocal cord symptoms are a potential complication in people with long COVID.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), long COVID occurs where symptoms persist for at least 4 weeks. The CDC does not list laryngitis as a common long-term complication of COVID-19 but recognizes the limited research in this area.

COVID-19 symptoms

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 commonly causes fever, dry coughs, and tiredness.

Less common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

More on COVID-19 symptoms

Many viruses can cause a sore throat. The WHO lists sore throats as a less common symptom of COVID-19 than fever, dry cough, or tiredness.

A sore throat in someone with COVID-19 could be due to the virus itself because it primarily affects the respiratory tract. These are the organs that allow for breathing, such as the nose, throat, and lungs.

In some people with COVID-19, the virus will affect the upper respiratory tract. This can cause inflammation in the throat, which could include the vocal cords.

Some symptoms of COVID-19 could cause a sore throat as a complication of the condition. For example, excessive coughing could irritate the throat, causing pain in the area.

Other potential causes of a sore throat include bacterial infections, allergies, or smoking.

Anyone who suspects they may have COVID-19 should take a test, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not. This is because SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is highly contagious. Anyone who has COVID-19 should self-isolate to prevent spreading the disease.

Learn how COVID-19 testing works here.

Anyone who suspects they have COVID-19 and wants to talk with a doctor should call before visiting a clinic. A doctor can discuss symptoms and provide advice over the phone.

In severe cases, immediate medical attention may be necessary. Examples of severe symptoms include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pain or pressure
  • confusion
  • difficulty moving or speaking

The CDC also recommends anyone with a sore throat contact a doctor if they experience:

Learn more about when to contact a doctor about a sore throat.

The treatment of a sore throat will vary depending on its cause.

The CDC recommends that people with mild or moderate symptoms of COVID-19 manage their illness at home. Resting and drinking plenty of fluids will aid the body in recovering from COVID-19.

However, it is important to monitor symptoms during the recovery period. Any signs of severe or worsening symptoms may require treatment in the hospital.

People with a sore throat due to laryngitis may receive treatment from a doctor that includes medications for the infection, voice therapy, and avoidance of irritants.

Treating a sore throat at home

The CDC provides some tips for easing the pain of a sore throat, including:

  • sucking on ice or lozenges
  • using a humidifier
  • gargling saltwater
  • drinking warm beverages
  • taking honey
  • using over-the-counter throat and cough medicines

Learn about natural remedies for a sore throat here.

It is critical for people to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading in the population. The WHO recommends that people prevent the spread of COVID-19 by:

  • keeping at least 3 feet (1 meter) from others
  • wearing a mask in public places
  • cleaning hands regularly
  • avoiding crowded or poorly ventilated environments
  • meeting people outside rather than inside
  • avoiding touching the eyes, nose, and mouth, particularly after being in public spaces
  • covering the mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing
  • cleaning surfaces regularly
More on transmission prevention

Laryngitis is the inflammation of the vocal cords, which can cause a sore throat and vocal changes. COVID-19 could cause laryngitis in some people. However, laryngitis may occur in people with COVID-19 from other causes, such as smoking.

People with a sore throat should take a test for COVID-19. A doctor may recommend treating the condition at home while monitoring symptoms. Some people may develop severe symptoms and should seek immediate medical attention.