September gives way to October, and before you know it…we’re into “cold” season.
Respiratory conditions are the bane of voice-actors (and singers, and broadcasters, and speakers, etc) everywhere.
You don’t have to be a doctor to understand how the human voice is produced. Vocal cords are: “…either of two pairs of mucomembranous folds in the larynx. The lower pair (true vocal cords or vocal folds) can be made to vibrate and produce sound when air from the lungs is forced over them…” Rhino viruses (cold viruses) of all sorts will effect the spectrum of your ability to speak…from chest congestion, to phlegm buildup in the throat, to raspiness, to nasal sinus swelling…well…you know all this.
Most everywhere you get advice on keeping your voice box healthy and ready-to-perform, you’ll hear that you should always keep yourself well-hydrated. Truer words were never spoken. This means all the time, day in and day out…not just a couple of hours before you are due to record. Water is preferred…and if you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already behind on your hydration.
Drinking water all day every day should just become a habit.
Similarly, shouting your head off at your daughter’s soccer game is ill-advised (personal testimony) if you want to maintain the integrity of your “cords”.
Remaining hydrated, though, and refraining from yelling does not answer the need for recovery from or even performing WITH the effects of a cold.
Therefore, the following is a list of accepted and workable devices and remedies that are worth trying. No solution works for everyone, but there are a number of ways to at least tackle the dreaded “dragon throat: and still get that narration or :30 spot done. (and trying something engages the “PLACEBO effect”, right?)
1) Many voice actors swear by THROAT COTE. It’s an organic herbal tea that may indeed “loosen things up a bit”. But remember the tea doesn’t go down over the cords…that would be pouring liquid into your lungs. So if the heat penetrates through to the larynx, or if the moist vapors of the tea are breathed in…then you may actually be onto something.
2) If you’re getting “stuffed up in your nose”…and you’re especially congested in the nasal cavities of your face, you may want to try a Neti Pot. You can buy a Neti Pot at Amazon.com even. Just Google it to see the plethora of vendors. Here’s a popular one, though: from the Himalayan Institute. Here’s another: SinuCleanse.
3) Entertainer’s Secret Throat Spray is not a cold remedy, but promises to: “…adjust the thickness and flow of the mucous in the sinuses and the passageways of the nose and throat…” and “…this solution helps mend the discomfort of a dry, sore, scratchy throat and the annoyances of a horse, tired voice…”.
4) Similarly, Thayer’s Dry Mouth Spray answers the same need. Thayer’s has a whole line of “dry mouth” products…claiming to be organic and natural, including sugar-free, and citrus flavored.
OLD HOME REMEDIES
5) One old home remedy for sore throat is tea made with lemon, apple cider vinegar, cayenne, and honey. A typical recipe would be made by adding one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper, the juice of 1/4 lemon, and one teaspoon of honey to a cup of hot water and then stirring. Typically, up to four cups a day is suggested. Honey is also used to soothe a cough.
6) Other Home Remedies
- Gargle and rinsing your mouth with salt water several times a day. To make a salt water gargle, dissolve one teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water.
- Use sore throat lozenges to increase saliva production and lubricate the throat. Lozenges shouldn’t be given to young children due to the risk of choking.
- Drink plenty of fluids, which keeps the throat lubricated. Some people get relief by sucking something cold, such as a popsicle, while others find warm drinks, such as warm water with honey, helpful.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Eliminate dry air, which can irritate a sore throat, by using a cold air humidifier. (above suggestions from http://altmedicine.about.com/od/healthconditionsdisease/a/sore_throat.htm)
7) More Gargle:
Gargle raspberry tea. Raspberry leaf tea can make a great gargle. (To make, pour 1 cup boiling water over 2 teaspoons dried leaves. Steep for 10 minutes, then strain. Allow to cool.) If you also have a fever, the gargle can be used as a fever-reducing drink, too. Do not drink any liquid you have used as a gargle.
Gargle with sage. This curative herb is a great sore-throat gargle. Mix 1 teaspoon in 1 cup boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes, then strain. Add 1 teaspoon each cider vinegar and honey, then gargle four times a day.
Gargle with turmeric. Try this gargle to calm a cranky throat. Mix together 1 cup hot water, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Gargle with the mixture twice a day. If you’re not good with the gargle, mix 1/2 teaspoon turmeric in 1 cup hot milk and drink. Turmeric stains clothing, so be careful when mixing and gargling.
8) Make a Horseradish Cocktail:
Try this Russian sore-throat cure. Combine 1 tablespoon pure horseradish or horseradish root with 1 teaspoon honey and 1 teaspoon ground cloves. Mix in a glass of warm water and drink slowly.
9) Citrus & Fruits with Pectin
Sip lemon juice. Mix 1 tablespoon each of honey and lemon juice in 1 cup warm water and sip away.
Drink lime juice. Combine 1 spoonful with a spoonful of honey and take as often as needed for a sore throat.
Either of the above remedies also fall under “eliminating mouth clicks” category. Some swear by eating a tart apple before a session, because the pectin in the fruit helps reduce the smacking of lips and teeth during enunciation.
Chloraseptic (a throat spray analgesic, but it may also deaden your tongue)
Zinc: some people SWEAR that taking this element at the onset of a cold will trim DAYS off your suffering (same with Vitamin C – orange juice)
Avoid: pretzels, crackers, chips
What have I missed? If you have a remedy for sore throat, congestion, or raspy throat that works for you, please comment below, and I’ll add it to the list with credit to you.
P.S. Bettye Zoller reminds me that she has recorded a 10-part series of podcasts on Vocal Health with John Florian’s VoiceOverXtra. This is an impressive body of work, and a much more in-depth treatment of this topic by someone who’s done graduate-level work in this area. Click here to see the listing of her series on VoiceOverXtra.
P.P.S. Vocal Coach Trish Causey also wrote to me on FaceBook 9-24-11 in reaction to this blog:
I saw someone post a link to your blog about 12+ ways to care for your voice, and I wanted to send some info your way. As a voice teacher, I teach from the perspective of functional vocal training (i.e., not opera, Broadway, jazz, etc., as those are styles to be worked later on). I start every student with vocal health lectures and alignment and breathing. So the following is some info I tell all my students, and I thought maybe I’d share it with you as well, if you don’t mind, especially pertaining to a few of the things mentioned in the article.
Never use a throat spray or take cough drops. The sprays numb too many moving parts you need to be able to use in a healthy manner for proper vocal function, and cough drops have chemicals that irritate the vocal tract or the nasal cavity making the initial situation worse. (Especially menthol! Sugar is an irritant for the lining of the mouth whether it’s glaze on a doughnut or the sweetener in a cough drop. Throat/Cough sprays deaden pain, but at the expense of making you feel fine so you use the voice as you would when you’re healthy, worsening the problem. Also, these sprays and drops tend to have all sorts of chemicals for coloring, flavoring, sweetening, preserving, etc. None of that is healthy for your body, and certainly not the voice… though these things won’t actually touch the voice, these chemicals DO get into the blood stream, and therefore eventually make their way to the musculature of the vocal folds.
The need for throat sprays and cough drops usually arises from eating something you shouldn’t (salty, crunchy, scratchy, or something dairy or wheat that causes an allergic reaction like sinus drainage or dryness), or acid reflux. Most singers and voice professionals who suffer from hoarseness and dryness have undiagnosed acid reflux (so they turn to throat sprays and cough drops — neither of which ever actually affect your vocal folds unless you choke on them! ….
Throat Coat Tea is amazing, so get lots of that (I’ve even seen it at Target). Throat Coast also makes a pastille (throat lozenge) with the same active ingredients as the tea, so it’s fine. The only store-bought cough drop I can recommend in a pinch would be the all-natural, plain-flavoured Ricola… but only until your Throat Coat lozenges arrive… Zinc (the actual supplement not the teacher’s aide stuff) is proven to cut the length of a cold in half, from an average of 8 days down to 4)…
The best way to take care of your voice is water, rest, water, water, more rest, and proper vocal training from a professional (such as myself) so that you understand the mechanics of the vocal instrument and its subsystems (especially breathing — without airflow there is no phonation! So weak airflow equals weak sound production). And laying off dairy helps a lot of people…..