This time of year is audition season… and flu season. It can be challenging to try to stay healthy during the long winter months and avoid getting sick. However, there are things you can do to help your body fight a cold and keep your voice in good shape! I’ve tried my fair share of remedies over the years and am excited to share with you some of the things that have worked for me!
Vocal health is critical for the professional singer.
This may seem obvious but tend to your overall health. Eat lots of veggies, drink plenty of water, and exercise. Get in a good routine and make it a lifestyle choice. Consider adding vitamins or supplements to your diet to ensure you are supporting your body. The better your overall health, the better your immune system will function and the less likely you are to get sick.
Sleep is critical for our bodies to rest and recharge. Getting 7 or more hours of sleep a night can lead to a stronger immune system and less of a chance of serious health problems later in life, like heart disease. If you give your body enough rest you are less likely to get sick in general. Seems worth it, don’t you think?
Wash your hands
Often. This is so important for preventing the spread of disease. Wash your hands after being in a public place and after coming in contact with other people. It’s better to do it than to wish you had!
Gaia Quick Defense
Okay… this one is a game changer! I learned about Quick Defense a few years ago and have been trying it myself and I have to say… I think it works! It’s an herbal supplement that kick-starts your immune system. When you first start to feel a cold coming on you start taking Quick Defense right away, following the directions on the package to take it several times a day for two days. If you’re able to catch the cold quickly enough, it will reduce the length and severity of the illness, and you might not even get sick at all. This is a lifesaver for me since I am a professional voice user and have to be singing and teaching all the time!
Use a humidifier
From October through April I use a warm mist humidifier in my bedroom every night. During the winter months the air gets very dry here in the Northeast. This can be problematic for the vocal folds because they can get dry, especially overnight when we’re not drinking any liquids. I find that using a humidifier makes a huge difference for me! It prevents me from waking up with a dry, irritated throat in the morning because the humidifier maintains a level of moisture in the air through the night. Just make sure to keep the humidifier clean.
Apple cider vinegar
This one is newer to me but many people have a lot of success with apple cider vinegar. Make sure it is raw, organic, and unfiltered. Stir a teaspoon of it into hot water with a little honey and drink!
Some essential oils are known to have anti-microbial properties. There is not a ton of research on essential oils which is why I put this last, but it’s worth a look into. Immune Strength by Rocky Mountain Oils is one to try. You can make a room mist with it, apply it topically (only after diluting!), or use it to freshen up home surfaces. Just don’t ingest it!
When you’re sick
Sometimes, despite our best efforts and all our salad-eating and hand-washing, we get sick anyway. When we do, we can have fewer symptoms and recover more quickly if we take good care of ourselves. Try some of these suggestions!
Things to avoid
As a singer, I’m always thinking about how things affect my voice. If I have a cold and still need to use my voice, I try to avoid antihistamines or decongestants if possible because they tend to dry out the throat. It’s often better to be a little stuffed up than be totally dried out when singing. But do some trial and error and see what works best for you.
Another thing to consider avoiding when using your voice is menthol since it numbs the throat. If we are singing and we are not aware of what’s going on with our vocal folds, we might unknowingly do damage. Of course, if you don’t need to sing, feel free to take whatever it is that will make you feel better!
The neti pot is a literal life saver when you are congested! It is a saline nasal rinse that can clear out your nasal passages much more quickly and easily than anything else. You can get a neti pot and the accompanying saline packets at any drug store. Use warm previously boiled water and mix it with one of the salt packets, and knock yourself out!
Salt water gargle
Whenever I feel a sore throat coming on, one of the first things I do is a salt water gargle with warm water. If I do this several times a day for the first few days, the sore throat symptoms are reduced and they go away more quickly. Scientific studies have shown that gargling several times a day can “reduce swelling in the throat and loosen mucus, helping to flush out irritants or bacteria,” says Health.com.
Vitamin C, zinc, and echinacea
When we’re sick, vitamin C is useful in helping our bodies get better quickly. Echinacea and zinc can also encourage the immune system and may help reduce certain symptoms.
Elderberry has been used for centuries and has been shown to reduce symptom duration and severity. It’s worth a try in your recovery efforts! There are plenty of elderberry supplements in different forms available on the market.
Tea with honey
One of the best teas for soothing a sore throat is Throat Coat Tea made by Traditional Medicinals. It’s specially formulated to do exactly what it says: coat the throat. Make sure to add a little bit of honey and it can be magical! (Real talk, I find tea to be a little drying without honey). Of course, other herbal teas with honey can work as well, but just avoid having a lot of caffeine as this can dry out the vocal folds.
I’m a fan of natural remedies, and these Garden of Life Sinus Health capsules have been helpful for me. This is just my experience, but whenever I’m sick and feeling congested these are one of the first things I reach for in the medicine cabinet. They not only reduce my congestion but they also support the immune system, and I feel better knowing that I’m not using a decongestant that’s going to dry out my vocal folds.
Hopefully this has been helpful and will offer you some ideas on how to stay healthy this winter! Keep in mind that all of this advice is what has worked for me personally and that I am not a doctor. Know your own body and give it what it needs. And if you have any questions, ask a doctor!
At the end of the day, a well-trained voice is going to have a better chance of being usable when you have a light cold. Find out more about voice lessons and vocal training.