Dealing with Allergies, Colds and Sore Throats as a Singer
Sometimes it seems like we singers are somewhat of a magnet to allergies, colds or sore throats, right? Well, don’t worry, because we’re not. We are often times just more aware of those things happening to us, because we use our voice to a greater extent than most other people, and that’s why we instantly know when something is even the tiniest bit different. Where others may have heavier allergies or a cold, it may seem to affect them less, because their voice is not as essential to their life as it is to us, and that’s why they may not be as aware of their instrument as we are of ours… I mean, it’s basically our real estate. All of that being said, there’s a few simple things we can do at home to minimize the impact these things have on our voice, so, here’s what we can do:
- HYDRATE! Stop rolling your eyes at me and just take a few sips of water. Yes. Thank you. I know you’ve been told this since you started singing, or maybe even before that, I mean, we all know that drinking water is basically the key to success or something along the lines. But yeah, what can I say: being hydrated is a good start to everything, so, drink up! Flush out those toxins and keep those vocal folds lubricated.
- REST! Yes, another one of those “top 10 life hacks”. But resting doesn’t only refer to sleeping (even though getting enough sleep really can do some serious miracles). Make sure you rest your voice too. Minimize talking. Don’t yell, don’t whisper, If you need to say something, say it in your speaking voice, but keep the volume down. Make sure you’re mindful with coughing and clearing your throat. Of course we don’t want to choke, so by all means get rid of that mucus in your throat. But since it is quite violent to your vocal folds, you can always do a quiet little glissando after coughing or clearing your throat, to prevent your folds from further swelling.
- VOCALIZE. Yes, I JUST told you to rest your voice, and now I’m telling you to vocalize?!? Hear me out. Quiet glissandos (gliding from one note to another) on closed sounds, like humming, n, ng, lip trills or tongue rolls provide a lot of back pressure which makes it easier for your vocal folds to stretch. You can also add a vocal fry, which, due to the irregular vibration of the vocal folds is like giving them a relaxing massage.
- CONSUME WARM FOODS OR BEVERAGES. Warm soups, caffeine free teas, warm water with honey: consuming these will soothe your throat and the warmth will also help to loosen up some of that built up mucus in your throat and airways.
- GARGLE WITH SALT WATER. Gargling with warm salt water will do a few things: it can soothe a sore throat, it helps to loosen up some of that mucus, reduces swelling and has somewhat of a “cleansing” effect.
- NUTRITION. I know I always say this, but make sure to provide your body with all the nutrients it needs and pay close attention to how your body reacts to certain foods and beverages. And if your throat is already irritated and the mucus is building up because of allergies, be mindful to not put any additional stress on it by consuming food that may further favor the production of mucus in your body or thicken the mucus that is already present e.g. dairy or sugar.
Of course there are other things that I didn’t include in this article, but this gives you something to get started with. Listen to your body, trust yourself and your voice. Think positive. Sing.