Vocal hoarseness is usually a symptom of a larger condition. A hoarse voice can sound strained, raspy, low, pitchy or whispery. Many disorders related to the vocal cords can make the voice hoarse. Fortunately, most are not serious and clear up in a couple of weeks. If you have hoarseness lasting longer than two weeks, you should consult your doctor, as this can indicate throat or larynx cancer. If you are experiencing this symptom, these frequently asked questions about hoarseness may address your concerns.  

Should I worry if I get hoarse when I have a cold?

If you have a cold, hoarseness can be one of many symptoms. You may notice a runny nose or eyes, fever, or infection in the upper respiratory system including the nose, mouth, lungs, and throat. In the case of the common cold, symptoms are mild. The flu is a more serious issue. A fever above 100 may last three or four days, and you may experience shivering and aching in your bones. If your hoarseness is flu-related, it is best to see a doctor.


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Can smoking make me permanently hoarse?

Many people associate smoking with lung cancer and breathing issues. It makes sense, then, that smokers can develop deep, hoarse voices. In many cases, smokers tend to associate this effect with the habit of smoking and do not think it is serious. Whether you smoke or not, however, if hoarseness lingers for a week or more, it is time to talk to your doctor. Reinke's edema, caused by increased fluid in the upper layer of the vocal folds, could be the cause of the hoarseness. Additional symptoms like shortness of breath and visible swelling can be signs of vocal chord cancer. The best remedy for any of these issues is to quit smoking and hope any damage is reversible.


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If I get hoarse from screaming, does the hoarseness go away?

Any time that you abuse your voice, you are likely to experience hoarseness. This can come from screaming at sports events or from lengthy vocal performances without rest. Resting the voice is one of the most practical ways to attend to hoarseness. If you feel you must, set aside a few hours when you will not use your voice for anything. Perhaps, you can use this time to sleep. Be sure to handle any spoken activities before this period and keep a notebook nearby to communicate.


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Does hoarseness indicate a more serious disease?

Lingering hoarseness may mean something more serious is happening in your body. Do not ignore the symptom or write it off as a common cold, especially if other signs of the latter are not present. Relay this symptom and any other changes you have noticed to your doctor. Hoarseness can be a symptom of allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, or a thyroid problem. The thyroid gland in the neck controls your metabolism through the production of hormones. If not working properly, the thyroid can produce too much hormone (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism). A decrease in production of this hormone can cause hoarseness. Other symptoms of thyroid issues include fatigue, forgetfulness, intolerance to cold, dry, coarse skin and hair, and weight gain. Women may also experience heavy menstruation.


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Why does acid reflux make me hoarse?

Gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD, happens when the contents of the stomach that contain acid move back up into the esophagus. This causes a burning sensation that can cause inflammation in the throat. Though unrelated to the heart, this symptom is often called heartburn because of the burning sensation in the chest. Heartburn may happen after you eat, or if you are exercising or being active. It can also set in when you are lying down. Most adults experience this sensation at least once a week.


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Determining the cause of hoarseness.

Doctors typically run lab tests, take biopsies and x-rays, and take a complete medical history when they are trying to diagnose the cause of hoarseness. They may ask specific questions about the symptom to get a better idea of the problem. The doctor also may use a laryngoscope, a small lighted instrument that enables the doctor to see the back of your throat. Doctors can discover various problems using these methods, including benign tumors, polypor larynx cancer, vocal cord thickening, the effects of a chemical irritant, and paralysis of the vocal cords.


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How is hoarseness treated?

Many doctors recommend resting the voice for treating hoarseness. This could require maintaining complete silence or just modifying how you use your voice. If nodules of polyps are discovered on the vocal cords, your doctor may recommend surgery. The physician will also recommend avoiding risky behaviors like smoking or inhaling second-hand smoke.


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Does water help with hoarseness?

Water is one of the best natural remedies for hoarseness. It flushes out toxins and keeps you hydrated. You can also create a saline solution with salt and water and rinse your mouth and throat every few hours. Salt helps to release the water that collects in the swollen and inflamed tissue in your throat and serves as an antiseptic to fight germs.


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Can I get hoarse from second-hand smoke?

Breathing in second-hand smoke can also cause hoarseness. Even though the smoke is not direct, it still reaches your respiratory system. It can cause the same problems as if you had smoked the cigarette. If someone is smoking near you, move away from the smoke.


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Can certain foods make you hoarse?

Foods contain many additives, chemicals and natural ingredients that can trigger allergies and hoarseness. You may not even know all the foods problematic for you. It is best to pay attention to your responses to certain foods and alter your diet accordingly. This is especially true for avoiding foods that trigger acid reflux. Problems can arise from foods that are acidic, spicy, fatty, caffeinated or alcoholic.


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