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Your Voice in Focus - A New Online Reality, Part 1

Apr 02, 2020

Ahem… Caring for the voice during cold and allergy season

Given the high stress we’ve all been experiencing lately, I thought it might be nice to step away from Covid-19 and talk about something normal, even fun and light-hearted in comparison like the Spring cold and allergy season.  Spring is definitely in the air, and with it, a lot of discomfort for many. 

With so many webinars, virtual presentations and meetings, how do we make sure we can sound our best when we’re not feeling our best?  Because ‘the show must go on’, singers know a lot about this very thing.

First the facts…

We produce healthy sound when the vocal folds are able to vibrate properly.  The vocal folds are muscular folds of tissue on the sides of the larynx that come together and under normal conditions, can vibrate at about 100 times/ second.  They are covered with a thin mucosal lining that allows them to slide back and forth and vibrate easily.  The challenge when we’re feeling sick is in managing the extra mucus, or phlegm, that collects around the folds due to external irritants and dehydration, thickening the lining.  That thick, sticky, glue-like substance in your throat prevents the folds from connecting and sliding back and forth.  It’s like trying to close folding doors with wool coats hanging over the end.  They can’t come together and do their thing, leaving you more distracted by the gunk in your throat than your presentation.

What can we do?  Let’s talk about phlegm!

Hydration is key, but sometimes finding a good balance is mysterious.  When the enemy is sitting on the vocal folds in between you and that brilliant content you prepared, try the following.

Hydrate the air around you

Everything from high altitudes to sunny days and dry, pumped-in air can de-hydrate you.  Keep a small humidifier in your office and others throughout your home to maintain a balance of at least 40% moisture in the air.  Keep it clean!

Eat your water

Be smart about what you eat and keep inflammation down to a minimum.  Loading up on fresh fruits and vegetables that are full of water like melons, grapes, cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, and berries will keep you hydrated throughout the day.  Avoid bad carbs, dairy and acidic foods that produce phlegm, reflux, and use more of the body’s water to break down.  Broths that have a base of vegetable, miso or garlic are great for the voice. 

Ditch the sugar and soda

We’re addicted to sugar in the US.  Here’s another reason why it’s baaaaaaad.  Your body uses more water to break down sugar, it stresses the organs, and creates inflammation.  So the soda you go to for a lift is actually drying you out, thickening the phlegm in your throat, and draining your energy.

Drink up

Water, water, water.  It thins out the mucosal lining so the vocal folds slide back and forth like pistons in a race car.  You already know that caffeine and alcohol are drying, so consume in moderation.  You can make water more interesting by adding chunks of melon.  Adding lemon juice also keeps the mucosal lining thin and slick (a singer’s favorite!).

Live it up!

Realize that hydration is something that we need to Live.  Because food and water don’t come into direct contact with your vocal folds, they need a minimum of 4 hours to benefit from any water that you’ve added to the body.  Bottom line, hydration needs to occur at least the day before.  Increase water intake with physical activity or medications that are drying. 


The action of lifting the larynx when we swallow helps to clear away the gunk.  You can also clear the throat in a small, quiet, polite kind of way rather than an all-out cough which slams the vocal folds together producing inflammation. 


Personally, I drink hot water with apple cider vinegar most of the year. Besides hydration, sleep and good nutrition, other ways to keep inflammation down are nasal rinses and steaming, turmeric and garlic (the less cooked the better).

Before you hit Play

On the day of your presentation drink water normally, you don’t want to feel bloated or be running to the bathroom.  Eat light so that your body uses the least amount of water and energy necessary to break down your food, getting blood back to your brain as soon as possible.   You can do some talking beforehand to kick up and clear out the phlegm, but minimize talking if your throat is sore or hoarse. 

One last thing –

Turmeric is full of healing and anti-inflammatory properties, so here’s a recipe for Golden Tea:

2 cups of almond or coconut milk, 2 tsp of ground turmeric, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground pepper (essential to help absorb the curcumin (key ingredient in turmeric)). Add honey to taste.  Heat for 10 minutes, strain into a mug and enjoy.

Here’s to your health!

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