Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Voices and Allergies... Practical Tips To Quell The Muous Monsters

Ah spring! 
Tis the season to be sneezin' - and it's no laughing matter for singers and public speakers! 

Your body decides that some particle is a foreign invader and has to be stopped at all costs... even at the cost of inflaming your sinuses, nasal passages, throat and/or vocal cords. Sometimes allergies can trigger an asthma attack in your bronchial tubes. And to add insult to injury, your inflamed tissues act like mucky Petri dishes awaiting to birth the next overgrowth of bacteria, fungi, etc to launch your spring cold. What can you do???
  • First line of defense: Raise your hydration to thin out excessive mucus. Drink like a fish... and breathe in steam from various sources such as a shower or hot bath, a pot of steaming water with towel draped over your head, personal steam inhalers such as MyPurMist .
  • Have throat soothing drinks available during your vocal rehearsals and performance. Diluted pineapple juice (about 1/4 juice to 3/4 water), cayenne-lemon-water, ginger tea... all can work wonders for soothing and hydrating irritated tissues.
  • Use prevention... avoid allergens as much as possible. Common sense, but I can't tell you how many of my highly susceptible people who have animals to which they are allergic! Clean house... wash and replace filters, pillows, throws, etc. Get air purifiers in your house... at least in your bedroom! Some come with not only true HEPA filters but also ionizers and UV light to disinfect the air.
  •  Minimize your use of over-the-counter (OTC) remedies that can dry you out. Again, try these things out when you don't have an important performance scheduled and notice how they affect your voice when you talk or sing. In an emergency gig situation, prescription steroid nasal sprays work but can be addictive. If you use steroids, count on going on voice rest after the gig you need them for. 
  • Using throat pain anesthetic sprays is NOT a good idea for performance. There are several reasons, the main one is that the numbness can fool you into thinking you can push your wounded voice so hard you sustain lasting vocal damage.
  • Rest your voice as much as possible. GET SOME GOOD SLEEP! And try not to sleep on your back, allowing post nasal drip to coat your throat tissues all night. Sleep on your side.
  • Warm your voice up with correct form exercises and use great vocal technique! When you do as I teach and pull instead of push your voice, you will be using breath support/control balance that will keep you from excessively winding and drying out the edges of your vocal cords. Your throat should also not get tight.
  • Decide whether or not to cancel your performance. Stuffy nose and sinus? I wouldn't record a master lead vocal but you should be fine for live performance. You'll just sound a bit more resonant with thicker m's and n's. Where does it hurt when you sing? Do you just have irritated throat tissues from post-nasal drip, or does it hurt at vocal cord level (laryngitis)? Consider canceling.
  • And finally... deal with the root of your allergy issue. There are alternative health remedies that really work such as acupuncture and progressive types of allergy shots (ask your doctor about these).
OK here's where the audience participation part of this post happens... what remedy ... medical or alternative ... has worked for YOU?  Stuffy noses would love to know!

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  • At December 14, 2015 at 3:42 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I've never had sinus issues in my life. Ever. But I believe this might be the issue. Nothing hurts when I sing. I'm guilty of sleeping on my back. The neti pot seems to work. My nose just feels congested. It doesn't run and when I blow my nose nothing really comes out unless I'm using the.neti pot. Even with that, everything that comes out is clear. This has almost lasted a month where clear singing, nose and throat have issues staying consistent. The climate where I'm at is constantly changing. Idk if this has something to do with it. If so, is this issue of consistency normal then? How long will it take to adapt?

  • At December 14, 2015 at 7:44 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Oh my goodness, yes, the climate changing, weather bringing odd things into the air and varying the barometric pressure... all this can affect your voice. I don't know how long it will take to adapt for you, but you can learn to sing above the 'fray'. Pull your voice from above and behind you, relax your jaw and open your mouth. If you do it right, you might even notice a sudden rush of drainage. Keep your immune system rocking with whatever supplements seem to help you so any chronic phlegm doesn't become a petri dish. And of course, if sinus issues become infection, seek a doc. You don't want chronic sinus infection.


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