Why is the voice often gone when I have a cold?


The reason that with a cold the voice can often be hoarse or even remain absent is due to an expanded inflammation of the larynx or the vocal cords. In the case of a flu-like infection, the infection usually comes from viruses, less often from bacteria.
The classic symptoms are a sore throat / sore throat, headache and body aches, fever, runny nose and tiredness or fatigue. If the infection of the upper respiratory tract spreads a little deeper, so that the larynx or even the bronchi also become inflamed, hoarseness often occurs.
Due to the inflammation of the vocal cords, they can no longer vibrate freely, so that the pitch of the voice can change or the voice may fail.

How does hoarseness or lack of voice come about?

In order to understand why the voice often stays away when having a cold, it is necessary to understand how the voice is generated:

The voice is created in the larynx, more precisely in the area of ​​the vocal cords. The larynx, which joins the upper end of the windpipe, has two vocal folds, the outermost edges of which form the vocal cords. The air has to flow between these two vocal cords / vocal cords as soon as we exhale or inhale. Accordingly, the vocal cords stand slightly apart when breathing so that air can pass through the larynx at all.

When speaking, however, it behaves differently: the vocal cords come together and close the glottis or the larynx passage almost completely, so that only a small gap is left. If air flows through this gap while speaking through the exhalation, the vocal folds are set in vibration, so that tones are created. Depending on the tension of the vocal cords, controlled by the larynx muscles, different pitches can be generated.

If, as part of a cold, the larynx becomes inflamed and the larynx mucosa and the vocal folds become inflamed, hoarseness (dysphonia) can develop. Due to the swelling, the vocal cords can no longer vibrate freely, which can lead to changes in pitch, hoarseness and even the absence of the voice.

Read more about this: Symptoms of a cold

Vocal cord inflammation

Vocal cord inflammation, also known as chorditis vocalis, does not usually occur alone, but rather in the context of an inflammation of the larynx (larynditis).
This usually arises from the spread of a flu-like infection of the upper respiratory tract (viral cold), less often from heavy stress (of the voice) in dry rooms. Hoarseness usually occurs together with a dry cough, and a sore throat can also be a possible symptom.
The therapy of choice is voice protection and inhalations with table salt, chamomile, sage or preparations containing cortisone. It is only necessary to take an antibiotic if there is a purulent inflammation.

Read more on the topic:

  • Symptoms of vocal cord inflammation
  • Sore throat

How long has my voice been gone?

If hoarseness occurs as part of a cold, it is to be expected that it can last as long as the cold itself. In the case of a harmless viral cold, as it occurs most frequently, the cold symptoms can last for one to two weeks and then disappear but mostly by itself.

If, in the meantime, the larynx is also inflamed and the voice is impaired, this can also hold up a little beyond the normal cold symptoms: it is not uncommon for you to feel quite healthy again, only your voice still seems scratched. However, the course of hoarseness or laryngitis can also be positively or negatively influenced: the more the voice is spared in the acute phase of the illness and smoking is avoided, the sooner the voice comes back. The hoarseness can rarely become chronic, but the causes are usually other.

Read more about this: How can I shorten the duration of a cold?

Therapy - What can I do to keep my voice from going away?

In order to prevent possible hoarseness with a cold, it is primarily important to protect your voice in good time. If the first symptoms of a flu-like infection become noticeable, you should rest so as not to put additional strain on the body.

Since hoarseness usually only arises when the cold viruses spread further down towards the larynx, an attempt should be made to mobilize the body's defenses as much as possible when the symptoms of the cold start to prevent this.

It is also advisable to drink enough fluids when you have a cold and to avoid toxins that irritate the vocal cords, such as cigarette smoke. Keeping your throat warm at the first signs of a scratchy throat can also help prevent the loss of your voice.

Read more on this topic: Therapy for a cold

These drugs help

Drug therapy is usually not necessary if the voice should fail with a simple cold.

In addition to consistently protecting the voice, inhalations can be helpful, for example with table salt, chamomile or sage. If the hoarseness is accompanied by a sore throat and even shortness of breath, this indicates a more severe inflammation of the larynx (laryngitis), which may require inhalation sprays containing cortisone or even antibiotics.

Antibiotics are only useful if there is an (additional) bacterial infection of the larynx, i.e. a purulent inflammation is present. However, the decision to take such medication should be made by the attending physician.

These home remedies can help

Classic home remedies to combat the hoarseness of a cold are, in addition to sufficient fluid intake to moisten the mucous membranes and consistent voice protection, inhalation. This can be done in the form of inhalation devices specially made for this purpose, but also very easily with the help of a steam bath (head steam bath). You can inhale with simple table salt water or with the addition of chamomile, sage or eucalyptus oil.

In the phase of hoarseness, it is also beneficial for the vocal cords to keep the neck warm with scarves, scarves or warm reels. Quark or potato wraps are also an alternative.

Learn more about this under: Inhalation if you have a cold

ginger tea

Ginger has the property of being able to have a calming and anti-inflammatory effect on the mucous membranes. Drinking ginger tea makes sense if you have a cold with hoarseness, as it not only strengthens the body's defenses, but can also relieve the symptoms of the larynx.

For a ginger tea, one or more ginger slices should be cut from a fresh ginger root and allowed to steep in hot water (alternatively, ginger can be rubbed in hot water). After about 10 minutes of steeping time, the tea can optionally be sweetened with honey.


Various homeopathic medicines can be tried in addition to the various home remedies. These include, for example

  • Causticum Hahnemanni,
  • Arnica,
  • Aconite (monkshood),
  • Hepar sulfuris (sulfur liver: mixture of potassium sulfide, potassium polysulfides, potassium thiosulfate, potassium sulfate),
  • Argentum nitricum (silver nitrate) and
  • Echinacea (sun hats).

All of the remedies mentioned here are aimed at improving the symptoms of hoarseness, sore throat, dry cough and strengthening the immune system.

What can it be if my voice goes away without a cold?

If hoarseness does not occur with a cold, it can have many other causes.
In addition to the classic viral and bacterial infections that lead to larynx and vocal cord inflammation, hoarseness can also occur in the course of an allergic reaction. Here, too, the lining of the larynx can swell, which can then be accompanied by hoarseness and lack of air.

In addition, certain noxae (toxins) can impair the voice, so the increased inhalation of smoke (cigarette smoke) or irritant gases also often leads to hoarseness. There is also occasional manipulation of the larynx, for example after intubation as part of anesthesia or bronchoscopy (reflection of the lower airways).

Benign neoplasms in the area of ​​the vocal cords or the vocal folds can also lead to the voice changing or missing. These include u. a. Vocal cord cysts, vocal cord polyps or Reinke's edema. Where there are benign neoplasms, there is always the possibility that malignant ones are present and cause hoarseness. Although this is less common, larynx carcinomas and papillomas can also cause such symptoms. Even rarer, but also possible, are vocal cord paralysis (due to nerve injuries), larynx malformations that have existed from birth or hormone-related changes in voice.