I lose my voice when I get a cold

Dear doctor,
I lose my voice every time I get a cold. And I do get colds very often. I usually take home remedies like lemon and ginger for the cold but it takes my voice a while to get back to normal. Why is this so? Maria

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Dear Maria,

Loss of voice occurs due to inflammation or damage to the sound box, which is situated at the base of the throat, inside the oral cavity. Common cold mostly occurs due to viral infections. There can be running of the nose, sneezing and or nose block. This infection can also affect the larynx, causing inflammation and loss of voice. Infection can be bacteria, where along with loss of the voice, cough and fever can also occur. At times fungal infection of the sound box may occur due to reduced immunity like uncontrolled diabetes. It can be an adverse effect of steroid inhalers used for asthma or frequent cold.

One may have frequent cold due to allergy to some substance present in the environment, or used over the body or present in food or drink. A deviated nasal septum (partition between the two nostrils), if present, also causes frequent cold. Secondary infection can set in any of these situations, affecting larynx and causing loss of voice.

Acid reflux disease is yet another cause of irritation of the larynx, manifesting as loss of voice. Somebody smoking or being exposed to cigarette smoke may have laryngitis.

Depending on the severity of infection, there may be just change in voice or hoarseness. Complete loss of voice usually occurs with severe infection.

A simple blood test can help determine whether the cold and voice loss is due to infection or allergy. Other causes can be determined by physical examination and suitable blood tests. Treatment depends on the underlying cause.

Drinking hot water and steam inhalation help to cure the cold and voice loss. Voice rest is advised to those having acute laryngitis. This means speaking only when necessary and giving rest to the voice.

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