Is Laryngitis Contagious?

Laryngitis is inflammation of the voice box, or larynx. It can cause you to become hoarse or lose your voice. Laryngitis can be contagious, depending on the cause.

Continue reading to learn more about when laryngitis is contagious, along with information about symptoms and treatment.

Man with lost voice

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What Types of Laryngitis Are Contagious?

If your laryngitis is caused by allergies, acid reflux, irritants like smoke, or overuse of your voice, it won’t be contagious.

However, if your laryngitis is caused by an infection, it may be contagious.

Viral Laryngitis

In most cases, laryngitis is caused by a viral upper respiratory infection like the common cold, the flu, or COVID-19. If an upper respiratory infection causes your laryngitis, it is contagious. Although the risk of spreading an upper respiratory infection is highest in the first three days after you have symptoms, there is some risk of spreading it for up to three weeks after symptoms begin. 

Bacterial Laryngitis

In rare cases, laryngitis is caused by bacteria. You’ll need to see a healthcare provider, who will prescribe an antibiotic to treat it. Bacterial laryngitis is contagious, but in most cases, you'll no longer be able to spread it to others once you’ve been on antibiotics for about 24–48 hours.

Fungal Laryngitis

Sometimes, laryngitis is caused by a fungus like candida, more commonly known as yeast. Fungal laryngitis is extremely rare, especially in healthy individuals. It can be seen in people who use steroid inhalers, especially if they don't rinse their mouths out after using medication. More research is needed to determine whether fungal laryngitis is contagious and, if so, how it's spread.

How Is Laryngitis Spread?

Viral and bacterial laryngitis can be spread when you come into close contact with an infected person or through droplets from coughs and sneezes. More research is needed to understand how fungal laryngitis is spread, and how contagious it is.

Laryngitis caused by irritants such as smoke or pollen isn't contagious. However, the people you live with are likely exposed to the same irritants as you. This could explain why family members or housemates sometimes have laryngitis at the same time. 

How Long Does Laryngitis Last?

Most cases of laryngitis should clear up within a few days to a week. If your laryngitis lasts for longer than this or if it returns after getting better, talk to your healthcare provider. Allergies may be contributing to your symptoms. 

Symptoms of Laryngitis

The most common symptom of laryngitis is hoarseness or the feeling that you have lost your voice. In addition, you may experience other symptoms, including:

  • Fever
  • Feeling generally unwell
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Since laryngitis occurs most frequently with an upper respiratory infection, you might also experience symptoms such as:

  • Nasal congestion, runny nose, or sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Headache and body aches
  • Fever
  • Weakness and fatigue

Laryngitis Treatment

The best treatment for laryngitis is to not speak. Don’t whisper either, since doing so can actually irritate your vocal cords even more than talking will. Instead, try to stay quiet.

Most cases of laryngitis will go away on their own without treatment. However, if you have bacterial or fungal laryngitis, you’ll need to take prescription medication from your healthcare provider. 

Lifestyle changes can also help treat laryngitis. If your laryngitis is caused by environmental irritants like secondhand smoke, try to avoid those triggers. Treat underlying conditions like allergies or acid reflux that can contribute to laryngitis. 

Summary

There are many causes of laryngitis, including overusing your voice and having the common cold. If your laryngitis is caused by an infection, you're contagious. The most common cause of laryngitis is a viral upper respiratory infection. If your laryngitis is caused by a viral illness, you’ll be most contagious for the first three days, but could pass the infection for up to three weeks.

A Word from Verywell 

If you spent the night singing along at a concert and woke up with no voice, you laryngitis likely isn't contagious. However, if you have laryngitis along with symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, you could pass the infection to others. Try to keep to yourself and consider wearing a mask when you’re in public to help avoid spreading the infection. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long are you contagious with laryngitis?

    Laryngitis is usually caused by an upper respiratory infection, in which case you'll be most contagious for the first three days you have symptoms.

  • How do I know if my laryngitis is bacterial or viral?

    Unfortunately there’s no way to tell if laryngitis is viral or bacterial based on symptoms alone. Viral laryngitis is the most common form. It often resolves after a few days to within a week. If your laryngitis lasts longer than that, talk with your healthcare provider about whether it may be bacterial. 

  • What is the most common cause of laryngitis?

    Laryngitis usually is caused by the same viruses that cause upper respiratory infections like the common cold or the flu.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Swain SK, Sahu MC, Debdta P, Baisakh MR. Primary fungal laryngitis: An overlooked clinical entity. Apollo Medicine. 2019;16(1):11. doi:10.4103/am.am_85_18

  4. Harvard Health Publishing. Respiratory tract infection - Is it contagious?

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By Kelly Burch
Kelly Burch is has written about health topics for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.