Learning how to care and maintain your instrument is an important part of the learning process. Just like guitars, saxophones, and pianos require regular care, cleaning, and maintenance, the voice is a very sensitive instrument that requires conditioning and upkeep to ensure optimum performance.
Seasonal allergies can wreak havoc on singers and cause symptoms like sore throats and congestion that make it difficult to sing comfortably. When allergy season arrives, it will often bring with it scratchy throats, runny noses, and stuffy ears. These symptoms make singing with allergies extremely difficult and can affect every nuance from breathing and intonation, to tonal quality and power. The good news- there are plenty of ways to mitigate the effects and protect your vocal chords from allergies so they don’t get in the way of your singing.
Can allergies affect your singing voice?
A common complaint from vocalists in the spring and summer months focuses on allergies interfering with singing. Allergies pose a challenge for singers more than other musicians, because it not only affects their ability to hear properly, but also affects their tone, intonation, and strength. Because so many aspects can be affected, it’s common for singers with allergies to even sound different if left unchecked.
Your breathing may be adversely affected with allergies. Since each person will have different experiences with allergies, it is possible that congestion will be worse in some singers than others. Allergies may cause sinus congestion as well as trigger asthma which can affect how we breathe. Controlling allergy symptoms will be a very important step to ensure proper breathing technique.
Can singing with allergy symptoms damage my vocal chords?
There are steps we can take to keep vocal chords healthy even in the middle of allergy season. A typical symptom of allergies is mucus lining the vocal cords, which can hinder your ability to sing well. Rather than avoid signing altogether, measures should be taken to alleviate the symptom so there is no detrimental overcompensation in dealing with this effect.
It’s possible to lose your voice if you sing with poor technique and irritate your vocal cords that are already reeling from discomfort. Experience is the best teacher of how to sing with allergies, but understanding the mechanisms at play and ways to mitigate their effect will ultimately be what helps you work through them.
How can I protect my vocal cords when singing with allergies?
Protecting your body and vocal cords is the key to maintaining optimum singing health. Consider these ways to prevent symptoms or alleviate those already present.
Take allergy medicine.
There are many allergy medicines on the market today, and each can be a great solution. Our bodies will react to medication differently, so this may take some experimentation to find what works best for you. The best allergy medication for singers is the one that you have tried and has shown to actually reduce or clear up symptoms for you.
Allergy medication works well by drying up your sinuses, so there are some unwanted side effects. Be prepared by following the next step closely.
Drink tea and stay hydrated.
Drink lots of water and tea. Because medication will dry your sinuses so much, it’s critical to stay hydrated. A dry throat and sinus cavity will make it difficult to sing well, so keep that water bottle handy.
Singers need herbal remedies for allergies. Herbal tea is an excellent remedy to help remove excess mucus from your throat. It’s a great way to stay hydrated and hot tea is als an excellent way to soothe irritated vocal chords as well. Some examples of therapeutic teas include slippery elm tea, licorice root, chamomile, and green tea. Honey is a great natural remedy for allergies and a great additive to tea. For those allergic to honey, consider agave as an alternative.
Shower and remove residue.
This may be the single greatest thing you can do (and easiest) to aid in your battle with allergies. Allergies can stem from a number of factors, many of which include things like pollen and pet dander. These allergens stick to us and can be carried throughout the day unknowingly.
Showering will help remove the pollen and any pet dander from your body, as well as create a sauna effect that will help clear sinus passages. These two things, simultaneously, can be very effective at mitigating symptoms.
Additional things to consider.
In addition to those aforementioned, preventing allergies is the best way to avoid symptoms altogether. Maintaining a clean home or work environment is important. Avoid dust gathering and keep fans clean from blowing allergens. Keep windows shut to avoid pollen coming inside and always wash your hands after sneezing or handling dirty objects.
How do you make your voice more clear when singing with allergies?
By taking precautionary measures and steps to avoid allergies, it’s possible to prevent any unwanted effects allergies may cause. Allergy medication, herbal teas, showering, and maintaining clean and pollen-free environments will ultimately help you keep your voice clear when singing with allergies.
The best way to “hide” the symptoms is to take the steps needed to mitigate their effects on your voice. Congestion, wheezing, coughing, and sneezing are all difficult to mask. By reducing the effect on your body and controlling your body’s response, it’s possible to sing in a healthy and productive way!
Stay healthy and practice good habits.
It’s important to stay on top of health issues and be mindful of your body trying to tell you how it feels. Illnesses can often be mistaken for allergies and vice versa. By understanding how to control allergies and alleviate the symptoms, you can keep your body in great shape and avoid any potential serious scares.
Working with a talented voice instructor who has the experience of dealing with issues such as allergies, is a great way to get tips and advice to help. The right voice teacher can help suggest certain over the counter solutions, herbal remedies, and techniques to practice to keep your voice healthy despite dealing with allergies.