Laryngitis is a condition that affects your larynx or your “voice box.” You use your larynx to speak, sing, shout, and whisper. When you have laryngitis, however, your larynx changes shape, which alters the way in which it sits on your vocal cords. Laryngitis, which is caused by inflammation of the larynx, often results in a loss of your ability to speak. Those who suffer from laryngitis find that their voices become hoarse and speech becomes quite painful. Is laryngitis contagious like a cold or flu? Keep reading to learn the answer.
Is Laryngitis Contagious?
This is not an easy question to answer. Whether or not laryngitis is contagious depends on the type of laryngitis you have. Not all forms of laryngitis are the same.
1. Viral Laryngitis
Whether viral laryngitis is contagious or not is not sure. In many cases, viral laryngitis is associated with a cold or flu. The symptoms of viral laryngitis include a sore throat, coughing, fatigue, body aches, low-grade fever, and all of the other symptoms that tend to accompany the common cold and flu. Though viruses are typically inhaled from droplets in the air that are produced by a carrier of the virus, viral laryngitis is not contagious in and of itself. The cold and flu that cause viral laryngitis are, however, quite contagious. So be sure to pay attention to and cover your mouth whenever you cough or sneeze in order to prevent passing germs to everyone around you.
If you do come down with a case of viral laryngitis, you won’t need to be treated with antibiotics. Simply get plenty of rest and take in lots of fluids. Inhaling steam may also relieve some of your symptoms.
2. Bacterial Laryngitis
If you have a bacterial laryngitis, the answer to “Is laryngitis contagious?” is definitely yes. Bacterial laryngitis occurs when the larynx becomes infected with bacteria. You’ll know that you have bacterial laryngitis if your laryngitis is accompanied by fever, severe pain in your throat, difficulty swallowing, and colored nasal discharge, as well as other symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection, such as headache, facial pressure, earache, ear fullness, or swollen glands on your neck.
If you have any of these symptoms, stay home from work or school, take the antibiotics prescribed to you by your doctor, and try to avoid speaking. Cover your mouth whenever you cough or sneeze and wash your hands regularly in order to prevent the illness from spreading.
3. Fungal Laryngitis
This type of laryngitis is considered contagious, too, since it is possible to transmit the disease from person to person; however, transmission requires direct physical contact. Fungal laryngitis is caused by “bad” fungal organisms. The most common one of these organisms is called Candida Albicans. Candida Albicans usually lives in our systems, but certain circumstances can cause it to become overgrown. Fungi do not usually cause infection; however, in the event that the body’s immune system is suppressed, they can penetrate natural blood and tissue barriers, which can lead to the infection of the larynx and other organs. Fungal laryngitis is characterized by symptoms that come on slowly and match the symptoms of both viral and bacterial laryngitis—hoarseness, coughing, a sore throat, and ear pain.
Usually, fungal laryngitis can be diagnosed visually, as the typical fungal lesions will be visible in the mouth and throat. Fungal laryngitis can be treated with antifungal medications such as ketoconazole or nystatin.
4. Other Conditions
Several other conditions can lead to the development of laryngitis. None of these conditions are contagious. Each of the following conditions is brought about by its own set of causes. Unless a person is affected by the same conditions, he or she cannot develop laryngitis by being in the presence of another person who has laryngitis. Among the conditions most commonly known to cause laryngitis are:
- Constant and prolonged affliction of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD can cause swelling and inflammation of the vocal cords.
- Thyroid inflammation
- Paralysis or stroke
- Excessive coughing
- Exposure to severe pollution
- Exposure to second-hand smoke
- Prolonged alcohol usage
Is Your Laryngitis Contagious?
Is laryngitis contagious? Sometimes. But how do you know if your laryngitis is contagious? The only way to ensure that you do not pass laryngitis to others is to have your laryngitis diagnosed by your doctor. Your doctor will be able to tell you the cause of your condition and warn you if you are contagious.
If you visit your general practitioner with laryngitis, they will converse with you in order to determine the cause of your condition— whether you are overusing your voice, misusing alcohol, smoking, suffering from allergies, etc.
Your GP may examine your larynx for swelling or redness, order blood tests, or take a throat swab using a small cotton bud attached to a plastic shaft. The swab lets doctors determine whether you have a contagious viral, bacterial, or fungal infection.