Some simple ways to treat hoarseness at home include drinking plenty of water, using a humidifier, resting your voice and gargling warm water and salt. These help to keep the throat and vocal cords hydrated and moist, which can keep phlegm more fluid. These methods can also help to relieve swelling or inflammation in the throat that is contributing to hoarseness.
A hoarse voice is not always serious and can occur for many reasons, like over-talking, colds and the flu. It usually resolves on its own within a few days.
Hoarseness that is prolonged, constant, or lasts for over 2 weeks may be a sign of another more serious condition, like a vocal cord injury. These cases should be assessed by a doctor, who will indicate treatment as appropriate.
Some tips for treating hoarseness at home are:
1. Drinking plenty of fluids
Drinking water can keep the throat and vocal cords moist and hydrated. It also reduces the thickness of phlegm, which can help to relieve hoarseness.
You should drink small sips of at least 2 L of water per day. People who have difficulty drinking enough water can add flavor to their water by mixing in lemon juice.
2. Resting the voice
Resting the voice for a few days by avoiding talking, singing or shouting is a great way to recover from hoarseness. Vocal rest is especially indicated if hoarseness was caused by irritation or inflammation in the throat.
You should also avoid whispering or talking in a low voice, as this can increase vocal cord tension and worsen hoarseness.
You can avoid losing your voice by remaining silent for 15 to 20 minutes, 2 to 3 times per day.
3. Using a humidifier
Placing a humidifier in the room is recommended especially when the air quality is very dry. Adding moisture to inhaled air can reduce throat inflammation and can open up the airways to release phlegm and promote breathing.
If you do not have a humidifier, consider taking a warm bath and inhaling the water vapor. You can also fill a bowl with boiling water, and stand over it with a towel to inhale the vapor directly. Warm water vapor should be inhaled for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Chewing gum
Chewing gum stimulate natural saliva production, which helps to moisten and lubricate the throat to soothe irritation and relieve hoarseness. You should opt for sugar-free gum to prevent tooth decay.
5. Gargling warm water and salt
Gargling warm water with salt has an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effect, which can help to remove bacteria that is contributing to swelling and infection.
To perform a throat gargle, mix one teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water. You can gargle this several times per day. Check-out home remedies for a sore throat that may help to resolve hoarseness cause by throat irritation.
6. Avoiding very hot or very cold food
Very hot or cold foods can irritate the throat and worsen hoarseness. You should avoid eating food at extreme temperatures and opt for foods that are just warm or at room temperature.
7. Avoiding substances that irritate the throat
Some substances like alcohol, caffeine and tobacco can irritate the throat and cause worsening or hoarseness. You should avoid smoking and consuming beverages with caffeine, like coffee, black tea or green tea, as well as alcoholic drinks, like beer, wine and liquor.
8. Exercising the vocal cords
Some vocal cord exercises, like rotating the shoulders forwards or backwards, or rolling the tongue to produce a vibration noise (like TRRRR or BRRRR) can help to improve voice loss by increasing circulation and oxygenation to the vocal cords.
These exercises can be done on a daily basis to prevent hoarseness and vocal cord injuries, especially in people who use their voice for long periods at work. A vocal coach or speech therapist can assist in identifying the most appropriate exercises for your needs.
The most common causes of hoarseness are:
- Inappropriately using your voice
- Cold or flu viruses
- Overproduction of phlegm
- Hormonal changes (that can occur during adolescence, for example)
- Respiratory allergies
- Persistent dry cough
- Parkinson’s disease
- Heart surgery, or any surgeries near the throat
Hoarseness can also be caused by stress or anxiety, as well as lifestyle habits like smoking, drinking or living in a polluted area. More serious conditions, like throat cancer, can cause nodules in the throat, which can also lead to hoarseness.
When to see a doctor
You should see a doctor if your hoarseness lasts for over 2 weeks or if it occurs with symptoms like coughing up blood or difficulty breathing. Babies should be assessed immediately if they develop hoarseness, which can be heard when crying.
The doctor may order testing to evaluate the cause of hoarseness, like a laryngoscopy or endoscopy. Once the underlying cause if identified, treatment can be initiated as necessary.