When a singer gets sick; 3 things you should never do

As I write this we’re in the middle of one of the worst flu seasons ever, according to the experts.  But it takes much less than that to negatively impact the average’s singer’s voice. In fact something as simple as a common cold has been known to cause some singers to completely lose their voice for a period of time.  When you’re not feeling well and you notice it’s affecting your ability to sing, that means your vocal cords are probably suffering some inflammation and irritation. Unfortunately, most of the things singers immediately do when their voice starts to suffer from an illness will actually make the situation worse. So today I’m going to list 3 things almost all singers do when they get sick and why you should avoid doing them. Before we continue, these tips assume one of two things;

1. You’re starting to get sick and it’s affecting your ability to sing. However it’s not bad enough yet for you to be bed-ridden.  2. You’re just starting to get over being sick and now you’re trying to get your voice back into shape. A singer who finds himself in either one of those scenarios should never do the following:


1. Keep singing.

Yes, I know. The show must go on. You don’t want to seem unprofessional. You’re gonna let everyone down. I get it.  But here’s the thing. When your vocal cords are irritated and inflamed they don’t function correctly. Inflammation can cause them to get stiff and not close properly. So any kind of additional stress you add to the mix actually makes it worse and increases your chances of losing even more of your voice. It’s better to simply cancel your engagement or church performance. Trust me, you’d rather deal with a few people inconvenienced or disappointed rather than deal with some long term complications with your voice.

2. Drink tea with honey and lemon

Say WHAT?? Yes, one of the most common, popular home remedies for making a voice better is actually a myth. Here’s why. Both tea and lemon are very acid foods. Acid is NOT what you want to be eating if you’re trying to nurse your voice back to health. While it’s true that nothing you eat or drink will come in direct contact with your vocal cords, acid foods can cause acid re-flux  You’ll forgive me if I don’t graphically explain all the nastiness that happens there, I hope. Suffice it to say though that there’s a lot of acid in your stomach, as you can imagine. When acid re-flux happens that acid comes up and….ok. I said I wasn’t going to describe that, didn’t I? The honey is ok though. There, I threw in some good news for you. :O)

3. Drink “hot toddy” -type drinks or medications high in alcohol. 

A Hot Toddy may feel mighty good going down, but pretty-much all of it’s ingredients are bad for your voice when you’re trying to get it back to health. Since they’re often made with tea and lemon or oranges, they’re full of acidic foods. We’ve already discussed why you want to avoid those when you’re sick or recovering and trying to get your voice in shape. Alcohol dehydrates. This is very important to know when you understand how important moisture and lubrication is to the proper, safe function of your vocal cords. If they’re already inflamed and irritated they’re stiff and not vibrating properly. Add dehydration to the mix and you have a recipe for some serious damage.

The most important thing to remember as a singer is that you  MUST keep your vocal cords moist and lubricated. That said, the most  effective thing you can do for your voice is drink lots of water.  Water keeps your whole body hydrated. Breathing steam, using a humidifier and the old-fashioned “lean over a pot of boiling water with a towel over your head” are all good ways to get your voice back into shape after a bout of the cooties. Ultimately though it’s far better to do whatever you can to avoid getting sick in the first place. It can be hard to do, but most people could avoid it by simply washing their hands more often. Certainly at key times like before a meal, after a trip to the bathroom, before you touch your face after touching public services or coming in contact with people.

The good news there is that ordinary soap and water does the trick just fine. No need to buy special anti-bacterial soap. The only advantage of hand sanitizers is the fact that they can be used when soap and water isn’t around. But they don’t work any better than ordinary soap and water. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But if you do get sick, taking a few extra precautions to protect your voice will get you back to 100% much faster.

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut”FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Singing with a cold

No273 13 Oct 2009 SneezeI’ve tackled this subject briefly in a video blog a few years ago, but it’s a subject we singers need to talk about often; especially this time of year. I went looking for some additional information to share this time around, simply because I thought my video blog years ago was informative but pretty generic in it’s detail.

One of the most informative articles I found on the subject was written by a vocal coach I’ve known about for some time. His name is Mark Baxter. Rather than copy and paste his great article here, I’d like you to do me a favor and check it out on his site. While you’re there check out what else he has to offer and book-mark his site.
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