The following information is intended to help answer some of the questions that many people have asked about changes to their voice after a stay in intensive care.
Sometimes people will feel discomfort or pain in their throat and have difficulties swallowing. Their voice may sound hoarse, husky, weaker or lower in pitch than normal and in very rare cases they may only manage to speak in a whisper.
The throat may feel sore after talking and a sensation of something in the throat may mean that the person clears their throat frequently.
The breathing tube that has been passed through their throat and larynx may have caused slight irritation or swelling. The mucous that keeps the vocal folds moist may also have become thickened.
All these factors may make your voice sound different. For the majority of people this will be a temporary situation.
In order to keep your voice as healthy as possible and prevent further damage we recommend:
- Avoid straining your voice. Try not to shout or whisper. This may mean you will need to avoid talking when there is a lot of background noise. Encourage people to come closer to you if it is safe to do so.
- Avoid long telephone calls
- Avoid talking in the car
- Try and talk in shorter phrases and allow enough time to breathe between sentences.
- Try and rest your voice for 30 minutes throughout the day.
- Try and avoid your throat getting dry. Drink about 2 litres and water and avoid drinking tea and coffee as they have a diuretic effect.
- If you use an inhaler do not forget to use it correctly. If provided use the spacer and if directed rinse your mouth after use.
- Try to avoid clearing your throat. You usually can prevent doing this by sipping water or swallowing instead.
A dry atmosphere may make your throat uncomfortable so if you have a humidifier that can ease discomfort, otherwise you can try inhaling steam but be careful with the hot water. You can buy steam cups from stores such as Boots and Amazon.
Otherwise you can pour hot water in a bowl and breathe the steam in. A towel over your head will help to contain the steam and give a better result.
Do not add anything to the water such as lemon, menthol or Olbas Oil as they can irritate your throat.
It is really important that you avoid:
- Drinking a lot of tea or coffee
- Foods that may cause acid reflux (where the acidic contents of the stomach travels upwards and has the potential to harm your larynx) such as spicy and acidic foods. Eat earlier in the evening allowing at least 3 hours after eating a meal before lying down.
Your throat and vocal folds should recover over the course of a few weeks as everything recovers and you become stronger.
In rare cases when symptoms continue for over 3 weeks please contact your G.P who may consider a referral for an Ear Noise and Throat (ENT) review.