Keeping Your Voice in Shape through Allergy Season
It’s fall, and allergy sufferers are agonizing, especially in evergreen southern climates. Many of us have had this experience, waking up and attempting to say your first words of the day that come out with a resounding croak. Unless your goal was to impersonate a bullfrog, you’re probably a wee bit annoyed, so you clear your throat and try your statement again, only this time it’s just a raspy, gravely, breathy growl—as though you’re a 70-year-old chain-smoker who was swilling whiskey all night. (No offense to 70-year-old chain-smoking whisky swillers, of course.)
Voice care is not usually the first thing on the mind of most allergy sufferers, what with burning, watery eyes, raw runny noses and throbbing sinus headaches. It’s possible that your concern for your voice is low on your list of priorities, but vocal care is not something to take lightly. In fact, it is more likely that permanent damage can be done to your voice through neglect than any lasting damage that could come from other allergic ailments. It is common for allergy sufferers to be prone to developing vocal nodes, for instance, which are like small calluses that can build on your vocal chords. When you strain your voice to produce more sound than it wants to put out in its weakened state, when you continually “clear your throat” to try to remove mucus or hope for a clearer sound and even just overusing your voice when it is weak and frail—these all can lead to vocal damage.
In most cases, even if you do develop vocal nodes, it may not matter too much to you. They aren’t painful, and they don’t cause any real problems other than potentially changing your voice, making it a little deeper and raspier, but in some cases these changes can be irritating at best. If you happen to sing, talk a lot in your profession such as in sales or serving, if you act or participate in a lot of public speaking, suddenly vocal care becomes far more important to you than it might to everyone else.
Below are some tips to help you take care of your voice naturally during allergy season:
- When possible, rest your voice. That means to be silent. Professional singers do this regularly when they feel that their voices are in a weakened state through allergies, colds and flues, before and after surgeries or potentially traumatic medical procedures and even before and after big performances. Vocal rest helps to protect the voice from strain while it may be weakened, preventing damage. Often this means carrying a note pad around and using your body language to communicate a little more than usual.
- Keep your throat warm, moist and away from drafts. If it’s cool out, consider wearing a scarf around your neck, drink plenty of liquids and avoid being in drafts such as open windows, air conditioning and fans. This can be particularly challenging to do in warm weather, but it will help to protect your voice.
- Drink warm liquids (but avoid caffeine which can be dehydrating), such as herbal teas, warm water with a small squeeze of lemon, etc.
- Gargle with warm salt water—it is recommended that you gargle with warm salt water at least twice per day: in the morning when you first wake up and at night before bed. This helps reduce any potential swelling and also helps promote moisture.
- Consider drinking an evening tincture of 1 part apple cider vinegar, 1 part hot water, 2 tablespoons of honey and ¼ lemon juice.
- Avoid these: Alcohol; smoke from cigarettes or anything else such as fireplaces, grills, cigars, etc.; and even antihistamines because they can be drying.
For our article on natural things you can do to help seasonal allergies, click here.