Laryngitis - How Contagious Is It?


Laryngitis can have different causes. Accordingly, there are causes that are contagious. These include chemical stimuli such as cigarette smoke. But voice overload, dry, dusty air, air conditioning or enormous temperature fluctuations can also trigger infection-free larynx infections. These causes can trigger acute or chronic laryngitis.
There are also causes that involve a risk of infection. For example, certain infectious underlying diseases, such as colds, can cause laryngitis. But other viruses or bacteria can also cause infectious larynx infections. In particular, diseases of the upper respiratory tract precede acute laryngitis. More rarely, acute laryngitis results from an underlying bronchial disease.

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The level of contagion

The risk of infection is in principle relatively high due to the path of infection. But since the risk of infection depends on the pathogen and the body's own immune system, the risk is individually greater or smaller. Laryngitis caused by the common cold is easily spread. Upper respiratory viruses are often triggers. In the course of the inflammation, bacteria often find their way into the larynx area.
Possible viruses are, for example, rhino and adenoviruses, as well as parainfluenza and influenza viruses. The latter two are among the flu viruses that are very contagious, especially because of their changeability.

Bacterial pathogens are mostly so-called streptococci. The risk of infection is particularly high when the immune system is restricted. But also smokers, babies, small children, the elderly, people who take so-called immunosuppressants, pregnant women, people who permanently consume more alcohol and people with sensitive mucous membranes have a higher risk of laryngitis.
The risk of infection increases here in larger crowds. This can be the case, for example, in kindergarten, school, in the office, in overcrowded waiting or lecture halls, in public transport or other gatherings of people. The risk of infection is often greater in winter.

What is the danger to babies?

Since a baby does not yet have a fully developed immune system, the risk of infection in a baby is very high. In the first few months, the body has almost no defenses of its own. It has only received the so-called nest protection from the mother. It may get other immune-boosting substances through breast milk. Nevertheless, these are very low compared to an immune-strong adult. The younger the child, the higher the risk of infection.

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In addition, the risk of infection is higher due to the different anatomical conditions of the larynx. These also cause babies and toddlers to develop another form of laryngitis called pseudo croup. This is a viral inflammation that mostly affects children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. Often it arises from a previous inflammation of the nasopharynx. Pathogens can be the highly contagious flu viruses or measles or rubella viruses. Since measles and rubella should only be vaccinated between 11-14 months of age, the risk of infection is greater in the period before that.
The "real Krupp", the so-called Diphtheria, can also cause laryngitis in babies and children and is very contagious and notifiable. However, this disease only occurs rarely in Germany.

After taking antibiotics

Antibiotics can only reduce the risk of laryngitis if the cause is bacterial. In the case of viral or other triggers, antibiotics are ineffective against both the pathogen and the risk of infection. Since the antibiotics first have to kill the laryngitis pathogens, there is still a risk of infection in the first 2-3 days of taking antibiotics. This is also the case when the symptoms have already decreased.

Can you spread laryngitis through kissing?

Laryngitis caused by viruses or bacteria can be transmitted through kissing, among other things. Therefore, anyone who has laryngitis or suspects that laryngitis may develop should definitely refrain from kissing.

Subjectively, the risk of infection can often be difficult to assess. Objective proof of freedom from infection can only be proven by a pathogen-free smear from a doctor.

The way of infection

The bacterial or viral pathogens that cause an infectious larynx infection are transmitted via tiny droplets. This transmission path is called droplet infection. The transmission occurs when speaking, sneezing, coughing or kissing. In addition, the bacteria and viruses are passed on by shaking hands. If someone then touches their mouth or face, it can easily become infected.

The pathogens stay in the air or stick to objects. The contagion is therefore not exclusively associated with direct or close contact. A sneeze can fly over 12 m and thus ensure that the pathogen is inhaled elsewhere. In addition, the bacteria or viruses are spread further by touching objects. Doorknobs, any handles on cupboards and drawers, light switches, elevator buttons, banisters, ATMs, cell phones, PC keyboards and children's toys are, for example, often “intermediate stations” along the path of infection.

Length of incubation period

The incubation period of acute laryngitis is usually relatively short. It is usually 1-4 days. The incubation time of a laryngitis varies depending on the pathogen. During this period, the person concerned is still symptom-free. Since the bacteria or viruses are already in the body, there is already a risk of infection. This is the time when the risk of infection is greatest. The person who already carries the bacteria or viruses does not yet know anything about it and behaves accordingly "carelessly". It is the same with the people who are in contact with the person concerned. Accordingly, the risk of infection during the incubation period is quite high.

Protection against infection

The best way to protect yourself against infection by the pathogens of a viral or bacterial laryngitis is to stay away from people. However, since this is not always possible or desired, regular, thorough hand washing with soap must be ensured. Whether hand disinfection is necessary in these cases is controversial. Cups, glasses or cutlery that someone has already used should not be used.When touching other objects that are used by (many) people, hands should be washed thoroughly with soap afterwards.

Furthermore, a strong body's own defense system can protect against infectious laryngitis. The immune system can be strengthened by a balanced diet that contains many vitamins and minerals. In addition, a balance between activity and rest phases can support the development and maintenance of the body's own defense system. Fresh air, regular exercise, adequate sleep, beneficial activities and thoughts, as well as regular saunas can also strengthen the immune system.