Seasonal change can have a significant impact on your voice. There’s increased risk of cold and flu in winter, of course. Heating systems suck the moisture out of the air and create a very dry environment, which can wreak havoc on the vocal folds. And then just when you think it’s safe to speak again, spring arrives, pollen fills the air, and allergies abound.
Here are a few things that will help you sound your best even when Mother Nature is making it hard on you.
Make every cup of coffee (or tea) a steam treatment for your voice.
All you have to do is make yourself a nice hot beverage and breathe the steam that rises from the cup. Breathing in through your nose for a couple of minutes is ideal.
Drink plenty of water or other non-caffeinated beverage.
The current recommendation from leading voice centers around the country for professional voice users is 64 ounces of non-caffeinated beverage per day.
If you typically start your day with a cup of coffee, try starting with a glass of water first.
The National Center for Voice and Speech (NCVS) recommends you also drink an extra glass of water for every cup of coffee or glass of wine or beer.
Use a humidifier while you sleep.
The fine water particles will directly hydrate the vocal folds.
Choose medicine wisely.
Medications taken during the course of a cold or during allergy season can really dry you out. If you are suffering from congestion, try breathing in steam and using a saline nasal spray or a neti pot to clear the nasal passages. Avoid decongestants if at all possible. And you may want to talk with your health care professional about the use of guaifenesin (Mucinex), which works to thin the mucus and can help keep your throat and vocal folds moistened.
Rather than using mentholated cough drops, try using a lozenge with pectin such as Halls Breezers or even gummy bears.
Remember that coughing and throat-clearing can be risky business.
These actions can do extreme damage to the delicate tissue of the vocal folds. When you feel an urge to clear your throat or to cough, try swallowing instead.
Know when to seek professional help.
If you are hoarse or breathy for more than two weeks, make an appointment with a laryngologist (an ENT who is specialized in voice disorders). These problems can signal a serious condition.
Jenni Steck is Barry Nash & Company’s voice and speech coach. She is smart (She has advanced degrees and licenses!) and friendly and really really good at helping professionals sound their best.
She also really likes to talk about this stuff. If you have a voice or speech-related concern or question, reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’ll be quick to get back to you!