It’s every singers nightmare. You wake up one morning with a sore throat that gets progressively worse throughout the day…
That’s what happened to me on Wednesday a few weeks ago. By the evening I could barely talk. I found myself thanking the stars that I didn’t have to perform on Friday night. But I did have to on Saturday and I needed to get better… fast!!
It’s important to know that when your vocal cords swell from illness, there is no quick fix, short of getting a steroid injection into them, which I’m pretty sure can only be administered by an ENT whilst the patient is under a general anaesthetic. So that really wasn’t an option.
I knew it was going to be a struggle, but I’ve experienced this too many times over my singing career, so I had a few ideas on how to maximise my chances of vocal recovery. Over the next 2-3 days I did the following things to try and minimize any further decline in my vocal function.
Tips & Tricks to give your voice the best chance when you’re sick..
- SLEEP – Whilst being a Mum and running my own business, this wasn’t really an option, sleep IS the best possible medicine for a speedy recovery. When you are sleeping, your body can focus all it’s energy on fighting the infection rather than sharing it with your activity. So if you’re able to, sleep, sleep sleep!
- HYDRATE – Water is a large component of our blood. Blood is what circulates all the nutrients required for cellular function. This includes the cells of the immune system. Water is also a key reactant in many cellular reactions, so the more available it is, the more efficient these reactions will be. Of course, within reason…. too much water can flush out the system of nutrients… so stay within the guidelines and you will be fine.
- STEAM – I’m a big believer in steaming. Fill a bowl full of boiling water. Grab a towel, lean over the bowl of water and cover your head and upper body with the towel to create a ‘steam chamber’. Breathe in the water vapour. This is the only way to topically hydrate the vocal cords. Drinking water will go down the oesophagus before it gets to the cords (if it hits the cords, you will cough violently.) But when you inhale steam it humidifies and changes state from steam to liquid as it enters your vocal tract. Therefore, there is more chance of hydrating and ‘heat treating’ the cords, consequently increasing their blood supply.
- HEAT PACK – Place a heat pack on your neck (front and back) to relax the extrinsic muscles and warm the area. This will relax the muscles and increase the blood supply to the area.
- VITAMINS AND DIET – All the usual remedies such as pro-biotics, vitamin C, olive leaf, apple cider vinegar, tumeric etc will give your body the best possible chance of recovery. Although, I prefer to use these daily as a preventative rather than once I have an actual infection. If you’re a performer and your voice is imperative to your work remember that prevention is better than cure. You can also ensure you eat a nutritious diet in order to provide your body with the best possible fuel for combatting those invading pathogens!
- TEA – I love a soothing tea at any time. But I find the best teas when I’m struggling vocally are orange and cinnamon and licorice root. Both are good with a dollop of honey.
- DON’T STOP MOVING – I find it beneficial to keep up my vocal exercises. Gently exercising the cords can maintain their flexibility and possibly even reduce swelling. But make sure you don’t strain. You can still place your voice into the position of higher notes without straining to make sound come out.
- GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR FRIENDS – One of the best parts about being a musician is the team work and camaraderie amongst us. Musicians help each other out because they know that one day they may need help too. When you’re booked to play live, there’s very little room for illness or an unexpected event that may stop you performing at your best or even worse, from performing at all. So it helps to have a team of musicians up your sleeve that can potentially fill in or help you out. There’s no need for competition in this industry… just working together. Personally, I try very hard to never be the only singer at a gig. If I’m in a duo, I ensure my partner can hold their own as a singer, if it’s a full band, I try to ensure there is a male vocalist or a guitarist who can sing. Some may see this as a cop
out or possibly think it suggests I’m not a ‘strong enough singer’; however, I see it as common sense and doing what is best for the gig. Because nobody is bionic, and we all get struck down with illness at some time or another. In this instance if the option is to sing badly and risk permanent damage to my cords OR rely heavily for one gig on another singer, it’s pretty obvious which is better for the overall band and performance. Another option is to take another singer along with you and offer them half your pay. This could be a student or someone who has limited experience, but is willing to sing the gig and help you out for the experience. This is a great option because the client is happy you’re (the singer they hired) there, but they’ll also be happy that you have back up to sing with you when your voice becomes tired.
Below is a video of my amazing friend G-Man totally covering for me whilst singing ‘You’re The Voice’ at the Acorn… 2 days after I lost my voice. PS. I’m really bad at selfy filming….
That’s all for now… keep singing and believing in yourself!
**The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.**