Into everyone’s life a little snot must fall. Getting a cold or sinusitis isn’t the end of the world, but for someone who needs their voice to work well every day, it can have a major impact.
Head colds aren’t always such a big deal, the problem comes in when things start to drain down the back of the throat or when an upper respiratory virus starts more in the throat. If your career isn’t hinging on using your voice, I counsel people to cancel things when you are hoarse, or coughing from a cold. For one you aren’t exposing other people to your virus, but for two, you need to rest to get better. If you push through and talk or sing a lot when you are sick, the fine wiring of the voice can change, leaving you with longer term vocal problems that take working with an expert to resolve.
When you are sick:
Laryngitis (losing your voice) is as much about fatigue as it is about a virus.
Coughing can cause you to become hoarse or lose your voice. I have seen many a voice user who gets sick, coughs a ton, and then gets better except for the voice which takes a long time to return to normal due to excessive coughing.
Post-nasal drip will irritate and inflame the throat and vocal cords.
Here’s what to do if you find yourself sick and your voice is hoarse, or gone completely:
- Rest – sleep as much as possible.
- Hydrate – water, tea with lemon and honey.
- Eat nourishing foods like homemade chicken soup – use real bone broth to get the best impact. Up your consumption of fermented foods for a probiotic boost.
- Steam – use a personal steamer or bring a pot of water to under a boil and tent a towel over your head. Slowly inhale through your nose and mouth for 10 minutes, 3 times a day. The steam will help shrink swelling in the cords.
- Find a way to minimize coughing. I try to avoid OTC medicines if I’m sick with a virus, but I do use cough syrup, especially at night. I want to minimize swelling of the vocal cords caused by coughing and maximize sleep which can be hard if you are prone to coughing fits at night.
- Dry up/Get out the excessive mucous. If you are a taker of decongestants, use them. If you like neti-pots, use one (I want to love neti-potting, but I’ve learned it doesn’t work for me. My eustachain tubes are too large and I end up with ear and sinus problems).
- Use your voice in a normal tone as much as possible – whispering only makes it worse.
- Go back and re-read #1, put on your jammies and get back into bed!