Laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx that can cause hoarseness. COVID-19 can be a cause of laryngitis, which can change the sound of your voice.

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While laryngitis is not the most common COVID-19 symptom, changes to your voice can affect you if you use your voice for your profession or hobbies.

Keep reading to learn more about how and why COVID-19 may affect your voice.

Laryngitis is a possible (but not common) symptom of COVID-19. You’re more likely to experience fever, cough, headache, and fatigue related to COVID-19 than laryngitis.

But some people have reported changes in their voice, especially hoarseness, due to COVID-19. These symptoms may be due to one or more of the following:

  • Inflammation of your upper airways may cause your vocal cords to swell.
  • Very forceful coughing or vomiting can injure your vocal cords.
  • If you required intubation to support your breathing while you were ill, it might have injured your vocal cords.
  • The virus may injure or irritate your vagus nerve, which has branches related to vocal production.

Some researchers have identified higher levels of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) in the vocal folds. ACE2 is a receptor for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. The presence of these receptors suggests some people may be especially vulnerable to voice changes after COVID-19 infection.

A small study involving 155 people who tested positive for COVID-19 found that 5% of participants reported hoarseness as a symptom.

A 2021 review found that most people who reported voice changes from COVID-19 reported hoarseness or dysphonia (disorders that affect the voice). Vocal changes affected female patients with COVID-19 more than male patients.

Researchers have identified different variants of COVID-19 over time. A variant is a genetic mutation of an original viral strain. Early variants of COVID-19, such as the Alpha and Delta variants, didn’t appear to affect the voice. But a later variant called Omicron did.

The Omicron variant typically affects the upper airways. This can lead to laryngitis, problems swallowing, and a very sore throat. While Omicron seems to currently be the variant that most affects the throat, its possible future variants could also affect the throat and voice.

Should I test for COVID-19 if my voice is hoarse?

COVID-19 could cause a hoarse voice. But there are many causes of acute laryngitis and the hoarseness it causes. Upper respiratory tract infections (which include COVID-19) and overuse of your voice are the most common.

If you experience hoarseness and no other symptoms, you could test for COVID-19. But there is not a lot of research to support hoarseness as the only COVID-19 symptom.

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You can treat your sore throat from COVID-19 by taking the following steps:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Try to drink enough fluids where your urine is pale yellow.
  • Breathe in steam via steam showers, which can help to relieve inflammation.
  • Take frequent sips of cold water to reduce the urge to cough.
  • Avoid straining your voice through excessive throat clearing.
  • Avoid whispering, as that can put greater strain on your vocal folds.
  • Refrain from smoking and vaping. Avoid exposure to smoke.
  • Take frequent breaks from talking when you notice your voice is getting tired.

Resting your body whenever possible can also help you recover from COVID-19.

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience emergency symptoms, such as:

  • problems breathing
  • confusion
  • loss of consciousness

You cannot choose where the COVID-19 virus affects your body. But you can take steps to protect against getting COVID-19 in the first place. Ways to do this include:

  • Practice routine handwashing with soap and water, especially after you sneeze or cough.
  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations to protect against the most serious forms of the illness.
  • Avoid contact with others who have a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 or who are ill.
  • Take steps in your home to improve ventilation, such as changing air filters regularly and using high-energy particulate air cleaners. If you can, open windows to your home to bring in as much outdoor air as possible.

If you do experience laryngitis, protect your voice by resting it. Overuse could worsen your symptoms. Avoiding cigarette smoke and environmental pollutants (like environmental smoke and chemicals) can also help protect your voice.

The Omicron COVID-19 variant causes more changes to your voice than previous variants. Because the virus has mutated frequently, future strains may also cause vocal changes.

If you experience laryngitis due to COVID-19, it’s important to stay hydrated, rest, and avoid forceful coughing and throat clearing. These steps can help protect your voice while you recover.