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Proven management strategies for hoarseness
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Proven management strategies for hoarseness

Hoarseness happens when one’s voice weakens and becomes crackly, deeper, and raspy due to inflammation.
Strategies to prevent hoarse voice.
Representational image | Shutterstock

Gyananistha Reddy, a 28-year-old resident of Bengaluru, caught a cold during the first week of February, causing her voice to become hoarse. As part of her job at a real estate company, she regularly interacts with clients and greets numerous people every day. However, her hoarse voice made it difficult for Reddy to communicate effectively, affecting her work performance.  

“My throat hurts, and my voice sounds like an out-of-tune harmonium,” she laments.  

Like Reddy, many of us might have faced hoarseness of voice due to common cold. It is a widespread issue that affects a large population due to seasonal variations.   

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reports that adults typically have two to three colds annually, while children experience them more frequently. Even though colds are more prevalent in winter and spring, they can occur at any time throughout the year.  

What is a hoarse voice?  

Hoarseness is a prevalent symptom of the common cold, caused by the inflammation and swelling of the larynx (voice box) and the vocal cords, explains Dr Abhishek Vishwakarma, resident doctor, department of pharmacology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Patna. The larynx contains the vocal cords, which are two small, flexible bands of muscle that vibrate to produce sound when we speak.  

Moreover, coughing can also contribute to hoarseness by putting additional strain on the vocal cords and causing them to become more inflamed. Repeated coughing can also lead to irritation and further swelling of the larynx.  

When a person catches a cold, the nasal passages become congested and inflamed, causing the mucus and fluid to build up or get trapped in the throat and sometimes even in the larynx, says Dr Karthik Shamanna, consultant ENT, Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru “This increased mucus production and inflammation can cause the vocal cords to become swollen, which can change the way that air moves over them and cause the voice to become hoarse.”   

The hoarseness occurs because the swollen vocal cords do not vibrate as easily, which makes the voice sound deeper, raspy, and weaker.  

Other factors that can cause hoarseness include inhaling fumes or chemicals, smoking, regular alcohol consumption, vocal cord abuse or overuse, shouting during sports, and laryngeal cancer.  

Easy and handy management techniques   

A hoarse voice typically recovers on its own within two to three days, explains Dr Shamanna. However, if the hoarseness persists beyond 72 hours despite medications, it is essential to seek medical attention.   

Both Dr Vishawakarma and Dr Shamanna recommend simple remedies to hasten the recovery.  

  1. Stay hydrated: The common cold usually dehydrates the body and the vocal cords. And keeping the already damaged vocal cords dry makes it worse. Staying hydrated is crucial when dealing with a cold, as it helps soothe the throat and relieve hoarseness. Drink plenty of water, clear broths, herbal teas, and other fluids to keep your throat moisturised. Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine as they can dehydrate you. 
  2. Rest your voice: Good rest, better recovery. Try to avoid speaking or singing as much as possible. If you need to speak, try to speak softly and avoid speaking continuously for long periods. Sip water every five minutes if you must speak for long hours. You can also use a humidifier in your room to help keep your throat hydrated. 
  3. Steam therapy: Steam can help to relieve hoarseness by helping loosen the stiff mucus in the throat. Boil water in a pot and breathe in the steam through your mouth or nose. You can also take warm showers for a similar effect. Avoid cold food and beverages, as it can worsen and slow down recovery. 
  4. Salt and water gargle: A saltwater gargle is one of the best home remedies to soothe the throat and reduce inflammation. Salt is hygroscopic in nature, meaning it pulls out the water trapped in the vocal cords. It also soothes the throat and helps in reducing inflammation. Mix half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle for 30 seconds. Repeat several times a day as needed. 
  5. Avoid irritants: Certain irritants, such as smoke, chemicals, and perfumes, can worsen hoarseness. Try to avoid exposure to these irritants as much as possible during this time. 
  6. Throat lozenges, cough drops, and menthol are some other agents that can provide relief. 
  7. Avoid clearing your throat: Clearing your throat can cause additional strain on the vocal cords and worsen hoarseness. Try to avoid clearing your throat, and instead, cough softly. 

Hoarseness during a cold is a nuisance, but manageable. By following these simple tips, you can reduce discomfort and get back to your normal activities as soon as possible. If your hoarse voice persists or gets worse, it is best to see a doctor for a proper evaluation and treatment. 

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