Voice loss is often due to acute laryngitis. Laryngitis occurs when your larynx (voice box) becomes irritated and inflamed. Most cases of laryngitis are caused by viral infections, like the common cold.

You can also irritate your voice box when you overuse your voice — like when yelling at a sports game or concert — or from exposure to environmental irritants like pollution and smoke.

Inflammation of the voice box

Your voice box contains your vocal cords. When you talk, your vocal cords open and close smoothly. As air passes through them, they vibrate to make sounds.

When your vocal cords are swollen or inflamed, your voice becomes distorted and may sound hoarse, raspy, or become too quiet to hear.

Laryngitis typically heals on its own and lasts less than 3 or 4 weeks. However, it can sometimes become chronic (long-lasting).

Treating laryngitis and getting your voice back involves treating the inflammation and irritation in your voice box.

Here are some methods to try.

1. Rest your voice

Resting your voice is the single most important factor in healing laryngitis. Irritation and inflammation need time to resolve, and avoiding using your voice at all gives your vocal cords the chance to recover.

Try not to talk at all for a day or so, and if you must talk, do so quietly.

2. Don’t whisper

You might be surprised to learn that whispering can make laryngitis worse, and you should avoid doing it when your voice is hoarse.

When you whisper, your vocal cords are pulled tight and are unable to vibrate, which puts extra strain on them. Instead of whispering, use a “confidential voice,” or a natural voice at a low volume.

3. Talk with a doctor about medication

Corticosteroids are prescription medications that help reduce inflammation. If you’re someone whose work depends on your ability to talk or sing, your doctor may consider giving you a short course of steroids to speed up healing.

However, corticosteroids have risks and should not be routinely prescribed. They may not be suitable for everyone,

4. Drink warm liquids

Drinking plenty of fluids is always recommended when you’re healing from laryngitis. Laryngitis is most often caused by a viral infection, so resting and drinking plenty of fluids will help you heal as quickly as possible.

Warm liquids like tea, broth, or soup may help soothe your irritated throat, keep your airways moisturized, and thin out mucus. Try drinking around 60 ounces per day.

Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee and black tea, as they can lead to dehydration. If skipping your morning coffee is out of the question, be sure to replenish your fluids with water or herbal tea.

5. Gargle salt water

Gargling warm salt water may help treat laryngitis by keeping your throat moist. It can also kill any bacteria.

Add 1 teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water and try gargling two or three times per day until your voice returns.

6. Suck on a lozenge

Sucking on a throat lozenge increases your saliva production, which can help keep your throat moist.

Try a lozenge containing honey, which has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

7. Take a hot shower

The steam from a hot shower can help moisten your vocal cords and soothe your throat.

Inhaling warm steam by taking a hot shower or bath several times a day may help reduce hoarseness and clear the vocal cords of sticky secretions that cause laryngitis symptoms.

8. Get a humidifier

Inhaling humidified steam can keep your upper airways moisturized and remove secretions around your vocal cords that cause you to lose your voice.

Try using a humidifier throughout the day and while you sleep when experiencing laryngitis symptoms.

9. Avoid smoking

If you’re a regular smoker or vaper, try taking a few days off. Smoking is commonly linked to throat inflammation, so anyone healing from laryngitis should avoid smoking and stay out of smoky environments.

If you’re unable to quit nicotine right away, consider using a nicotine patch or other smoking cessation aid.

10. Avoid alcohol

Alcohol is an irritant that can dry out your throat, which could exacerbate laryngitis symptoms.

Drinking alcohol may delay healing, so avoiding it is recommended when you’re trying to get your voice back.

Laryngitis doesn’t typically require treatment. It’s often caused by a viral infection, so antibiotics won’t help. Symptoms typically clear up on their own within 3 to 7 days.

If you’re someone whose job depends on your voice, however, your doctor may be willing to prescribe corticosteroids to decrease inflammation.

If your laryngitis symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, or if your symptoms are very painful and you have trouble swallowing, you should see a doctor. You may have chronic laryngitis or laryngitis caused by acid reflux.

Your doctor can perform a physical exam and recommend a specialist if necessary.