“Winter Throat”

“Winter Throat”

snowball fight during recent blizzardYikes! Are we ever getting slammed here in Boston this winter!

As a singer, you might be noticing a little extra challenge in keeping your voice clear and strong right now.  Seasonal colds and flu can definitely create havoc with our voices, due to congested lungs, stuffed-up noses, and irritated throats.  Additionally, many of the medications people take to suppress the symptoms of colds and flus are drying.

Even if you don’t have an active virus, you might be  experiencing what one of my former voice teachers called “Winter Throat” (obviously, not a scientific term:-).  This is brought on by the dryness of the air this time of year, especially in heated rooms.  The vocal folds like a nice moist coating of mucous; when the mucous becomes too thick, or when congestion from the nose drips down into the throat at night, they can create chronic irritation,  coughing or feeling like you need to clear your throat.   Of course, if you are experiencing hoarseness that goes on for over two weeks or changes in your voice that are concerning, you should always consult a qualified laryngologist (see when to get scoped).  But meantime, you can do a lot to mitigate the effects of dryness .   Here are some things you can try:

  • Stay hydrated! Drink lots of water.  Some guidelines are to try for one glass per 20 lbs of body weight per day.  Or until your urine is pale.  Recognize that many beverages (alcohol, coffee, even caffeinated tea) as well as many medications are desiccants, increasing your need for hydration even more.
  • Use a humidifier in dry rooms.  If you are on the road, you can use a portable one such as that made by Boneco.
  • Try steam treatments.  Put a towel over your head and lean over a pot of hot water, inhaling the steam.  Or try a Vick’s personal steamer, which is very convenient if you have to travel.
  • If you have nasal congestion, try a saline rinse with a neti pot or rinse bottle first thing in the morning and before you go to bed.
  • Try to cut down on clearing your throat; when you feel the need, take a sip of water instead.

And of course, follow sensible health guidelines to keep your immune system strong and help fight some of the viruses that are going around.  Eat well, exercise, get plenty of rest, and be sure to stay warm.  Recent research seems to prove that cold and flu germs live longer in the nose when it’s cold.  So your mother was right – stay bundled up if you go outside!

Singing has been proven to have positive effects on the brain. It release endorphins – the hormones associated with feelings of pleasure, while boosting oxytocin – which alleviates stress and anxiety.  It might just help if you’re experiencing some Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or just plain cabin fever.  So, stay well this winter, and keep singing!




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