Weakness of muscles around the voice box caused by nerve or muscle disorders
Hoarseness may be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic).
Rest and time may improve the hoarseness. Crying, shouting, and too much talking or singing may make the problem worse. Be patient, because the healing process may take several days. Don't talk unless you really need to and avoid whispering. Whispering can strain the vocal cords more than speaking does.
Gargling does not help the vocal cords. Avoid decongestants because they dry the vocal cords and prolong irritation. If you smoke, reduce or stop smoking.
Humidifying the air with a vaporizer or drinking fluids can offer some relief.
Treat conditions such as:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Make an appointment with a health care provider if:
You also have difficulty breathing or swallowing
Hoarseness occurs with drooling, especially in a small child
A child less than 3 months old is hoarse
Hoarseness has lasted for more than 1 week in a child, or 2 weeks in an adult
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
If you are having severe difficulty breathing, the first priority is to restore normal breathing. This may require the placement of a breathing tube.
Once your condition is stable, the doctor will examine your throat and mouth. You will be asked questions about your symptoms and medical history, including:
Did you lose your voice completely?
Is your voice weak?
Does it sound breathy, scratchy, or husky?
Does the voice change continue?
Does the voice change occur repeatedly (recurrent)?
Has the condition gotten worse gradually over time?
At what age did the voice change begin?
How long have you had this symptom?
Have you been shouting, singing, or overusing your voice?
Have you been exposed to irritating fumes?
Have you swallowed a harsh (caustic) liquid?
Have you swallowed a foreign object?
Do you use alcohol?
Do you smoke?
Do you have a history of allergies?
Has the infant or child been crying a lot?
Have you had recent surgery or a procedure on the mouth or throat?
Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. St Louis, Mo; Mosby; 2010.
Feierabend RH, Malik SN. Hoarseness in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2009;80(4)363-370.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and Seth Schwartz, MD, MPH, Otolaryngologist, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.