Anyone who learns an instrument must also learn how to care for and maintain it. As an adult singer, taking care of your voice is crucial, especially during the cold and flu season when your vocal health may be more vulnerable. Here are some essential tips to help you navigate this challenging time while maintaining the health and well-being of your voice:
1. Stay hydrated
- Water is the single most important substance you consume and is a basic building block of your body’s cells. Hydration is key for vocal health and for managing cold and flu symptoms.
- For lots of helpful tips on this topic, check out my YouTube video exploring how much water a singer needs here.
2. Vocal rest
- If you’re feeling under the weather or experiencing symptoms of a cold or flu, it’s important to give your voice proper rest.
- Resting your voice allows your body to focus on healing and recovering from the illness. Talking too long or straining your voice while sick can further irritate the throat and prolong the healing process.
- Give yourself vocal rest by minimising unnecessary talking, and avoiding shouting, whispering, or yelling. Also, refrain from excessive throat clearing.
- Communicate through alternative means like writing, texting, or using voice-to-text applications to reduce vocal strain.
3. Practice good hygiene
- Regular hand washing is key to practicing good hygiene and preventing the spread of cold and flu viruses. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating, after using the restroom, and after coughing or sneezing.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets. Dispose of used tissues immediately and wash your hands afterwards.
- Avoid touching your face, particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth, as these are common entry points for cold and flu viruses. If you need to touch your face, ensure your hands are clean.
- Maintain a clean environment by disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, and countertops. Use disinfectants that are effective against viruses.
- Practice good respiratory hygiene by maintaining a distance from individuals who are sick, and if you’re feeling unwell, cover your mouth and nose with a mask or face covering to protect others from potential infection. Stay home when you’re sick to avoid spreading the illness to others.
4. Warm up and cool down
- Warmup exercises are crucial for preparing your voice before extended use, whether it be singing, speaking, or performing. Gentle vocal warmups, such as humming, lip trills, and gentle sirens, help to gradually activate and loosen up the vocal muscles, ensuring better vocal control and reducing the risk of strain or injury.
- Cooling down your voice after intense vocal use is equally important to promote relaxation and recovery. Slowly transitioning from speaking or singing to gentle vocal exercises like sighs, gentle humming, or tongue trills can help release any tension built up in the vocal cords and prevent post-performance or post-speaking fatigue.
- Incorporating a regular warmup and cooldown routine into your vocal practice or performance regimen can enhance vocal longevity, flexibility, and overall vocal health.
5. Steam inhalation
- Steam inhalation is a beneficial practice for maintaining vocal health as it helps to hydrate and soothe the vocal folds. By inhaling warm steam, the moisture can help alleviate dryness and irritation in the throat, which is essential for singers, public speakers, or anyone who uses their voice extensively.
- To perform steam inhalation, fill a bowl with hot water, place a towel over your head to create a tent-like enclosure, and lean over the bowl, breathing in the steam for about 10-15 minutes. Be cautious not to get too close to avoid burning yourself.
- The warm steam can help to loosen mucus and congestion in the throat, making it easier to clear the airways and produce clear, smooth vocal tones. It can also reduce inflammation and irritation caused by vocal strain or overuse.
- Steam inhalation should not replace proper vocal care practices such as staying hydrated, avoiding vocal strain, and seeking professional guidance if experiencing persistent vocal issues. Steam inhalation can be a complementary technique to support vocal health, but it’s essential to listen to your body and seek medical advice if needed.
6. Rest and sleep
- Getting adequate sleep when you’re sick is crucial as it allows your body to allocate energy towards healing and recovery.
- Quality sleep supports your immune system, aids in fighting off infections, and promotes overall well-being, helping you bounce back faster.
7. Seek Medical Help
For more information
Remember, taking care of your overall health is crucial for maintaining optimal vocal health. Listen to your body, prioritize self-care, and make informed decisions to protect and nurture your voice during the cold and flu season. By following these tips, you can keep your singing abilities intact and reduce the risk of vocal strain or damage.