Vocal Health for Singers and Performers

This time of year is audition season… and flu season.  It can be challenging to try to stay healthy during the long winter months.  However, there are things you can do to help your body fight disease and keep your voice in good shape!

Prevention

General health

This may seem obvious but tend to your overall health.  Eat lots of veggies, drink water, sleep, and exercise.  Get in a good routine and make it a lifestyle choice.  The better your overall health, the better your immune system will function and the less likely you are to get sick.

Wash your hands

Often.  This is huge for preventing the spread of disease.  Wash your hands after being in a public place and after coming in contact with other people.  It’s better to do it than to wish you had!

Vitamins

I like to supplement my diet with vitamins to help boost my immune system.  Vitamin C is known to be especially helpful in preventing and fighting disease.  Other vitamins great for your immune system are B6 and E.  These vitamins are naturally found in many fruits and vegetables, so make sure to include those foods in your diet, but even so I like to give my body a little extra support.

Apple cider vinegar

This one is newer to me but many people have a lot of success with apple cider vinegar.  Make sure it is raw, organic, and unfiltered.  Stir a teaspoon of it into hot water with a little honey and drink!

Use a humidifier

From about October until April I use a humidifier in my bedroom every night.  During the winter months the air gets very dry here in the Northeast.  This is bad for the vocal folds because they can get dry, especially overnight when we’re not drinking any liquids.  The humidifier helps to keep the vocal folds hydrated.  I find this makes a huge difference for me!  Just make sure to keep the humidifier clean.

Essential Oils

Some essential oils are known to have anti-microbial properties.  There is not a ton of research on essential oils which is why I put this last, but it’s worth a look into.  I like to use Immune Strength by Rocky Mountain Oils.  You can make a room mist with it, apply it topically (only after diluting!), or use it to freshen up home surfaces.  Just don’t ingest it!

When you’re sick

Sometimes, despite our best efforts and all our salad-eating and hand-washing, we get sick anyway.  When we do, we can have fewer symptoms and recover more quickly if we take good care of ourselves.  Try some of these suggestions!

Things to avoid

As a singer, I’m always thinking about how things affect my voice.  When I’m sick, I try to avoid antihistamines or decongestants whenever possible because they tend to dry out the throat.  If I need to sing, it’s better to be a little stuffed up than be totally dried out.  Another thing to consider avoiding is menthol since it numbs the throat.  If we are singing and we are not aware of what’s going on with our vocal folds, we might unknowingly do damage.  Of course, if the symptoms are really bad and you don’t need to sing, feel free to take whatever it is that will make you feel better!

Neti pot

The neti pot is a life saver when you are congested!  It is basically a saline nasal rinse.  It can clear out your nasal passages much more quickly and easily than anything else.  You can get a neti pot and the accompanying saline packets at any drug store.  Use warm previously boiled water and mix it with one of the salt packets, and knock yourself out!

Salt water gargle

Whenever I feel a sore throat coming on, one of the first things I do is a salt water gargle with warm water.  If I do this several times a day for the first few days, the sore throat symptoms are reduced and they go away more quickly.  Scientific studies have shown that gargling several times a day can “reduce swelling in the throat and loosen mucus, helping to flush out irritants or bacteria,” says Health.com.

Vitamin C and echinacea

We’ve already talked about vitamin C and its benefits.  When we’re sick, vitamin C is just as useful in helping our bodies get better quickly.  Echinacea can also encourage the immune system and may help reduce certain symptoms.

Tea with honey

One of the best teas for soothing a sore throat is Throat Coat Tea made by Traditional Medicinals.  It’s specially formulated to do exactly what it says: coat the throat.  Have this with a little bit of honey and it’s magical!  Of course, other teas will work as well, but just avoid having a lot of caffeine as this can dry out the vocal folds.

Sinus pills

I’m a fan of natural remedies, and these Garden of Life Sinus Health capsules have been a lifesaver for me.  This is just my experience, but whenever I’m sick and feeling congested these are the first thing I reach for in the medicine cabinet.  They not only reduce my congestion but they also support the immune system, and I feel better knowing that I’m not using a decongestant that’s going to dry out my vocal folds.

 

Hopefully this has been helpful and will offer you some ideas on how to stay healthy this winter!  Of course, I am not a doctor and all of this advice is what has worked for me.  Know your own body and give it what it needs.  And if you have any questions, ask a doctor!