This winter has been a challenging one for vocal health. Despite their best predictions, flu vaccine developers were not able to cover all strains this season, and many people are falling ill and suffering stubborn residual symptoms even after they feel much better. Of course, other non-flu upper respiratory illnesses are making the rounds as well. One of the realities of being a singer is exposure to a lot of airborne pathogens, in public places, on transit, and from singing in ensembles. But we don’t turn down gigs just because of this, right? We learn to deal with it.
One of the effects of this winter’s bevy of upper respiratory bugs is thick mucous that just doesn’t want to leave. Here’s my checklist for dealing with the pesky stuff.
1. Hydrate enough. Drink a glass of water upon getting up. You’ve been asleep, and are therefore dehydrated. Drink water before imbibing any other liquids. Also drink water before going to sleep. This is a good thing to do all the time, not only when you are sick.
2. As much as possible, avoid caffeine and alcohol. Well, I understand if you can’t. If you need a bit if caffeine to start your day or enjoy moderate intake of alcohol on occasion, drink extra water to counteract the drying effect of these beverages.
3. Drink lots of hot liquids. Herbal tea is great, as is hot water with lemon juice in it. Lemon is great for cutting the gunk.
4. Breathe steam. Boil a pot of water, then breathe the steam. I sometimes put aromatic spices in the water, set the pot on a trivet or cutting board, and drape a towel over my head to get more out of the steam. Tincture of Benzoin Compound, also called Balsam of Peru, is great to add to steaming water. It has an odd odor but is very soothing to your mucous membranes. Just make sure to use an old can for this mixture – Balsam of Peru will coat your pots and is hard to clean up. I boil the water in a tea kettle, then pour it into a coffee can and add a capful of Balsam of Peru.
5. Clear your nose regularly, whether or not it appears to need it. Sometimes drainage is hard to detect, and you don’t want it drizzling down onto your larynx.
6. Gargle warm salt water. After you’re done, remember to gargle clear water to clear the salt.
7. Mix honey with ginger powder, and take a spoonful every few hours, as needed.
8. Avoid dairy, excess sugar and too many carbohydrates. Eat fresh vegetables and fruits.