It’s allergy season again– well, it’s always allergy season in Southern California– so it’s time to talk about caring for your voice! Many singers try to brush off the fact that ongoing breathiness or hoarseness and overall fatigue can be the result of inflammation from allergies, but it is so common, I hear it in students every day in my vocal studio. Don’t ignore it! The more you let a small vocal problem go, the bigger a problem is created. So how do you deal with allergies affecting your voice?
First, get a definitive diagnosis from an ENT (an otolaryngologist, or Ear Nose and Throat doctor, preferably one who specializes in dealing with singers and other professional voice users). He can examine your vocal cords directly to see what may be causing the problem. Once you know allergies are at the root of your vocal woes, you have several options:
1) Get tested by an allergist and find out what you’re allergic to (a certain food, a pet, dust, etc.) and remove the source of the problem. But, often, this can be an expensive or impractical issue to sort out, which could involve a major lifestyle change or long-term allergy shots.
2) If you can’t remove the allergen, then you have to deal with the symptoms. I’m a huge fan of going the natural route– inhaling steam several times a day, drinking lots of water, using saline spray in the sinuses or rinsing the sinuses (sterile sprays and distilled water ONLY, no tap water!), gently gargling with sterile saline solution, running a humidifier in your bedroom at night (keep it clean!) and your workspace. Many singers also find relief taking natural supplements as well– certain vitamins, minerals or herbs. But, seek the help of a licensed medical professional, such as a naturopath, to guide and monitor you. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it is without side effects, or necessarily better or safer than a prescription medication.
3) If natural remedies don’t take care of your allergies, you may have to take medication prescribed by your doctor. I know many of us resist having to take medicine, but it may be a necessity if your allergies are severe enough that they constantly bother you and your voice. Talk to your doctor and always emphasize that you are a singer and that you do not want to take anything that can create a secondary problem while trying to solve the first problem (for example, some antihistamines can cause dryness of the vocal cords). Also, be careful of drug interactions if you are taking other medications, and beware of other side effects that could affect your health. Do your homework, and get all the information you can from your doctor.
It may take some trial and error in treating your allergies, and may involve a combination of all three of the protocols listed above. But, getting a handle on them can make all the difference in having a clear, vibrant vocal tone, and the energy and stamina to sing dynamically at peak performance.
THE SUGGESTIONS PROVIDED ABOVE ARE FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. ALWAYS CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE TREATING ANY CONDITION ON YOUR OWN.