This is an acute inflammation of the mucous membrane of the larynx. The larynx is that part of the throat, in the region of the Adam’s apple, which incloses the vocal cords and other structures used in speaking. Hoarseness is commonly due to extension of catarrh from the nose in cold in the head and grippe . It also follows overuse of the voice in public speakers and singers, and is seen after exposure to dust, tobacco, or other smoke, and very commonly in those addicted to alcohol.
Symptoms. Hoarseness is the first symptom noticed, and perhaps slight chilliness, together with a prickling or tickling sensation in the throat. There is a hacking cough and expectoration of a small amount of thick secretion. There may be slight difficulty in breathing and some pain in swallowing. The patient feels generally pretty well, and is troubled chiefly by impairment of the voice, which is either husky, reduced to a mere whisper, or entirely lost. This condition lasts for some days or, rarely, even weeks. There may be a mild degree of fever at the outset (100° to 101° F.). Very uncommonly the breathing becomes hurried and embarrassed, and swallowing painful, owing to excessive swelling and inflammation of the throat, so much so that a surgeon’s services become imperative to intube the throat or to open the windpipe, in order to avoid suffocation. This serious form of laryngitis may follow colds, but more often is brought about by swallowing very hot or irritating liquids, or through exposure to fire or steam. In children, after slight hoarseness for a day or two, if the breathing becomes difficult and is accompanied by a crowing or whistling sound, with blueness of the lips and signs of impending suffocation, the condition is very suggestive of membranous croup (a form of diphtheria), which certainly is the case if any white, membranous deposit can be either seen in the throat or is coughed up. Whenever there is difficulty of breathing and continuous hoarseness, in children or adults, the services of a competent physician are urgently demanded.
Treatment. The use of cold is of advantage. Cracked ice may be held in the mouth, ice cream can be employed as part of the diet, and an ice bag may be applied to the outside of the throat. The application of a linen or flannel cloth to the throat wrung out of cold water and covered with oil silk or waterproof material, is also beneficial, and often more convenient than an ice bag. The patient must absolutely stop talking and smoking. If the attack is at all severe, he should remain in bed. If not so, he must stay indoors. At the beginning of the disorder a teaspoonful of paregoric and twenty grains of sodium bromide are to be taken in water every three hours, by an adult, until three doses are swallowed.
Inhalation of steam from a pitcher containing boiling water is to be recommended. Fifteen drops of compound tincture of benzoin poured on the surface of a cup of boiling water increases the efficacy of the steam inhalation. The head is held above the pitcher, a towel covering both the head and pitcher to retain the vapor.
The employment, every two hours, of a spray containing menthol and camphor (of each, ten grains) dissolved in alboline (two ounces) should be continued throughout the disease. If the hoarseness persists and tends to become chronic, it is most advisable for the patient to consult a physician skilled in such diseases for local examination and special treatment.