I started coming down with on a Monday. It had been three years since I couldn't kick an impending bug out before it became a full fledged respiratory infection. My herbs, chiropractic interventions and other remedies always (almost) come to my rescue... but this cold was bound and determined to be had!
It couldn't have come at a worse time; I had a rare full band gig that Thursday. What makes it even scarier is that I have a history of colds turning into an infection of my larynx - viral laryngitis not related to vocal abuse but still a curse! So no, the gig on Thursday was not a good vocal night for me. In fact, I probably should have canceled.
But this post I want to tell you how yours truly navigated the 'L' word. I'm happy to report that in spite of singing on swollen vocal cords (DON'T DO THAT!!), because I know how to pull my breath pressure instead of push my voice, I actually could talk even better after singing! Unreal. I was also just plain lucky, I think. I only did half my set, and I drank everything I could get my hands on that had water in it, so that helped. I also 'pulled' my voice when I talked to people in the audience.
I kept up with the herbs (I'd have been burned at the stake in the old days if someone looked at the bottles on my kitchen sink), chiropractic adjustments, the hot epsom salts baths and neti potting. The only time I truly experienced laryngitis was one day when I coughed a lot from the inevitable move of mucous into my lungs. Amazingly (for me), though I'm still blowing my nose, I'm back to vocalizing high C's with my students, and it's only been 9 days. It used to take me three weeks to recover my voice.
Here's a summary of my research on the matter of laryngitis. Now, I don't want to have to repeat this experiment, so take notes:
- HAVE SUPPLIES ON HAND BEFORE you have any signs of problems! Figure out what nutritional supplements work to enhance YOUR immune system. A cold thwarted is better than a cold fought! Then keep those supplements stocked. You may not be able to get to a health food store (or feel like it) in time when the germs come knocking. Also... check the expiration dates on those bottles; buy new ones if needed. Consult with a nutritional medical practitioner. Consider an alkaline form of vitamin C. Consider signing up for my newsletter; you get a 9-page bonus report full of vocal health tips.
- CATCH IT EARLY! Try to nip a cold at the slightest catch in your throat - before the infection can take hold. Most (but not all) of the time, you can if you act fast. Steam your throat, take hot epsom salts baths (unless your have circulatory problems or could be pregnant). Take your immune boosting supplements. Consider going to the chiropractor for an adjustment. Get a lot of sleep!
- HYDRATE LIKE YOU ARE A FISH!! Your voice needs a thin layer of mucous... and when vocal cords are swollen they evaporate a lot more water from their edges than normal. Steam, drink, don't ingest anything dehydrating. Keep doing it all day... and definitely at any performance or speaking engagement you feel you have to do.
- EAT LIGHTLY... if at all. Your body needs to devote its energy to fighting infection so give it a break and don't make it digest normal meals. Also, I personally find that eating a lot really revs up mucous production when I have a cold. Whatever you eat, make it easy to digest - mainly fruit and vegetables, and try some ceyenne pepper on it. Yes, homemade garlic-laden chicken soup has healing properties and can make you feel better. But I've found it best to mostly let my digestive system rest.
- TRY A NETI POT (or similar nasal irrigation device). If you can wash out the allergy- causing substances before they create a petri dish-like condition in your nose and sinuses, you can often avoid becoming a bed of roses for the floating pathogens around you. ALSO... using a Neti pot before bed can dilute post nasal drip and keep so much of it from going on down to bathe your laryngeal tissues all night.
- DON'T PUSH YOUR VOICE! If you HAVE to speak or sing, do your very best to use as little air pressure to make sounds as possible. You do this by pulling back as powerfully as you send sound forward. Power, Path and Performance technique really works to limit the strain you put on your vocal cords.
- TRY VERY HARD NOT TO COUGH! It's the surest way to get laryngitis. If you have to because you're drowning in mucous, do it as softly and easily as possible.
- AVOID DRYING DRUGS. You'll dry your vocal cords as well as your sinuses. Some otc remedies work for some people, but do take note of any drying effects on your voice. Check with your doc for her/his recommendations, but be sure and tell them you are a vocal performer. Speaking of which...
- GO TO THE DOCTOR... if at all in doubt that you might have a bacterial infection of some kind. Viruses don't even shrug at antibiotics, but bacteria are another matter. And pneumonia is sneaky!
- CONSIDER CANCELING your performance.
- AFTER VOCAL CORD INFLAMATION SUBSIDES, carefully work your voice back into shape. Don't push it all of a sudden, be smart and patient and you won't end up with actual vocal damage. By all means, book a vocal lesson to get your voice back the fastest and safest.
- KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR if at all possible... check your pulse, you are human. Even nutritional health practitioners get colds from time to time. Simple colds can be whisk brooms to sweep out a lot of toxins along with the copious mucous. First do no harm... let your voice rest until it's ready to be worked instead of pushing vulnerable tissue into a damaged condition. Chill out, silence can be sweet and peaceful. Then work it back wisely and you should feel, and sing, GREAT when you get well!