Sore Throat Relief for Singers and Vocalists (in fact anyone who is serious about keeping a healthy voice)
This guide is written primarily for the singer, but is useful to everyone who needs sore throat relief or suffers from a hoarse voice.
Our vocal cords are delicate membranes surrounded by muscle. These membranes need to come together solidly to create a clear sound. Sometime infection or over-use can cause these membranes to swell, resulting in hoarseness. Continued over-use, shouting, and even whispering can, over time, result in damage of the vocal cords, which needs medical attention.
Warm-up your voice before you start. You wouldn’t see an athlete tearing around the track without warming up their body first, so offer your voice the same consideration. It doesn’t take much effort.
• Start with a few deep, controlled breaths, followed by some humming.
• Hum your favourite song, if scales are not your thing.
• Use your voice to make a squeaky door being opened sound (use the ee sound to slide up and down your vocal range).
• Move onto singing some of your gentler songs, before you start tackling the belters.
• Also know your limits. Don’t try to sing too high, or too low until you are warmed up enough. Start at a comfortable range and extend from there.
Avoid abusing your voice throughout the day. Don’t talk for long periods of time – you will find your voice will get hoarse. Avoid whispering. This is stressful to your voice and will cause vocal fatigue. Do not shout over loud noises, such as machinery or concerts. I’ve know a few who have yelled at rock concerts, etc, and haven’t been able to sing for months afterwards. It’s just not worth it! Talking for prolonged periods is also a hazzard for your voice. So many teachers, sales reps and call-centre staff end up having problems with their voice because of not taking care of their voice, or giving it enough rest to recover.
Vocal hydration is extremely important. Our cords are delicate membranes, which dry out very easily (especially when talking or singing in dry, smoky atmospheres). So drink plenty of water. There are a number of sprays and lozenges on the market which can help. Also steam inhalation is good at getting moisture onto your cords.
Drinking – (alcohol that is!. We’ve all needed Dutch Courage at some point, but alcohol can lead to damage of your vocal cords. Huh? I hear you say. Alcohol numbs our nervous system, and helps lose our inhibitions. For example, Normally, when you’ve not had a drink, you know when your voice is tired, or when you have pushed your voice too far because you will feel discomfort in your throat. However, since you’ve had your drink, the alcohol can numb your throat, loosen your inhibitions, pushing your voice past its usual boundaries (this may take the form of shouting or singing too loud, too high, too low, or simply for too long a time period) and you can’t feel those warning signs. You wake up in the morning, with a sore head and no voice for several days (or in some cases several weeks!)
Smoking. There are no health benefits to smoking, so either cut down or stop completely. Smoking affects your lung capacity, irritates the membranes in the windpipe, resulting excessive mucus and a cough, which can inflame the vocal cords, as well as all the other health problems associated with smoking. That leads me onto recreational drugs – if drinking and smoking are bad – drugs are even worse. Don’t go there!
A few tips to help you recover from a sore throat:
2. Drink plenty of Water.
3. Avoid Tea, Coffee, Cream & Alcohol
4. Take Vitamin C tablets or eat fruits/ vegetables rich in Vitamin C to aid your body’s natural defences. Hot Lemon & Honey or Blackcurrant both contain vitamin C and anti-viral properties and fresh ginger has natural anti-inflammatory properties – grate a little ginger and add it to hot water, sweeten with honey if required.
5. Severe, violent coughing can injure the vocal cords. Cough Syrup, Throat Sprays and Lozenges can help.
6. Hot Water Steam Inhalation, with or without a few drops of Eucalyptus, Peppermint or other Essential Oil helps to clear the sinuses, and get moisture onto the vocal cords
7. Do NOT attempt to Sing and avoid Talking until you feel better to allow the inflammation an opportunity to reduce. This may be even take several weeks
8. On recovery start with some gentle humming for 5-10 minutes at a time and slowly build up to a few vocal exercises in your mid- range gradually expanding the range over several days. The rate of recovery will depend on the severity of illness and how experienced a singer you are. Any recurrence of hoarseness stop and rest the voice for another couple of days.
And Most Importantly – Take time out. We all need to have a break. You need a complete rest from singing at least once a week and I mean a complete rest. No practice, no singing along to your favourite records, no singing in the bath etc. Also if you done a hard day or long gig, then give your voice a rest the following day.
If symptoms continue, seek advice from your own Doctor.