06 June, 2017

Ask Al: Vocal Health Part 3: HEALING

Silly sicky bear. Shoulda taken his Airborne.
Dear Al,

Following up on your Vocal Protection and Vocal Maintenance posts, I’m wondering what you do once you are sick or under the weather,, your voice is damaged or in crisis without too much worry?




Dear Jonathan,

Fantastic follow up question!
Before delving in to any tips and trick, I will begin here [by *healthily* yelling]:

If your issues are persistent you MUST seek medical advice. 


[*Chugs Gatorade*]

Okay now here we go.




•    Nasal Emollient
such as Ponaris, Dry Nose, or other such emollient from the health food store or pharmacy.
    If you can't find the emollient, in a pinch you can use very light olive oil or other light vegetable oil.  At bedtime and again first thing in the morning, rinse each nostril with the saline mist and then blow your nose. Then coat the lining of each nostril with a very small amount of the oil/emollient using a Q-tip very carefully or your finger. Sniff the emollient up as high as it will go. It helps you sleep, breathe, and eliminate dry, scaly, nasal tissues that contribute to mucous, drainage ,and inflammation. 
•    Nasal Saline Mist/Spray (Ayr, Ocean, etc)
and the…
•    Neti Pot
Game changers! I love a good nasal spray on-the-go, but day-to-day, I could not recommend using a Neti Pot more. I use mine twice a day to lubricate, cleanse, and naturally clear my sinus passages (which, because I have a small skull, are highly prone to infection). Follow all the instructions carefully and know that it can take a few trys to get your Neti-system down (I will admit, it feels a little creepy at first, but after a few trys? TRUST ME—you’ll be hooked). It is well worth it the experiment. It has been a total game-changer for my overall health, not just my singing. If one part of your body is in any way inflamed or fighting infection, the whole organism suffers.
•    I also add a dash of a product called Alkolol to the NetiPot, which aids in thinning mucus and encouraging clearing. (It also doubles as a terrific gargle!) 

•    Apple Cider Vinegar and Raw, Local Honey: In a cup of warm water dissolve two spoons of the apple cider vinegar and two spoons of raw local honey if available.  Gargle each mouthful and swallow it. Repeat once more in the middle of the day, before bedtime and again in the morning if needed. Honey kills germs.
•    Salt Water: During the day, gargle with warm salted water and then later, alternate with the apple cider vinegar/honey gargle. Obviously DO NOT swallow the salt water ew ew ew. Salt also kills germs.
•    Alkolol http://www.alkalolcompany.com/: I am a big fan of this product and use it both in my Neti Pot as well as a gargle. Here is what their website says:
“Alkalol is a unique blend of natural ingredients developed over 100 years ago as a nasal wash and mucus solvent. Today it still provides drug-free relief from nasal congestion and irritation caused by sinusitis, allergies, colds and post-nasal drip. And it helps dissolve mucus and clear blocked nasal passages. Alkalol helps you breathe easier.
Throughout history herbal extracts and essential oils have played an important role in healing. From the moment you open Alkalol you breathe in its invigorating scent, which comes from its natural ingredients. And it works. Alkalol helps you breathe easier.
Alkalol’s blend of natural ingredients helps dissolve mucus from your nasal passages. During nasal irrigation and while using the Alkalol Nasal Wash Cup, the Alkalol mixture flows through your sinuses clearing irritants such as dust and pollen. It also helps improve overall nasal hygiene by preventing mucus from gathering in your sinuses where it can become the breeding ground for bacteria.”

IMMUNITY (repeating from Part 1, but crucial)
•      We all get run down, and singers are the first to get colds in the chest, ear, nose and throat. I have benefitted hugely from the use of Zinc, as well as Airborne and also Wellness Formula available at most pharmacies and online. These should be used as soon as you experience symptoms of a cold or a sore throat, or prophylactically if there is a risk of being exposed to a myriad of new germs (such as on an airplane, subway, or with children).

•    Be cautious about taking Aspirin (Bayer, Excedrin, etc), Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.), and Naproxen (Aleve) within two weeks before very demanding singing, especially if you are prone to vocal cord hemorrhage. These medications encourage the blood to thin, and can make it more possible to bleed and have a vocal cord hemorrhage.
•    Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is not a blood thinner, and thus, at least I believe is a better EMERGENCY pain relief option.
•   Do NOT take decongestants and then sing. OMFG: Decongestants do not REMOVE the mucus! They cause dry mouth and dehydration. They only remove the watery fluid FROM the thick mucus which then still remains, making it even more sticky, thick, and very difficult to navigate. This can cause more vocal fold friction, swelling, and vocal fatigue. Yuck. Healthy mucus production is necessary and protective of vocal function and lubrication as long as it is thin and fluid and not thick.
•    Never try a medication for the first time on a performance day.  Plan a trial period to observe your own individual response, and then adjust the dosage if necessary or discontinue if appropriate.
•    If you have an “emergency” where there is no trial period possible, you will have to evaluate the the entire context as well as the relative importance of the performance versus the risk of vocal injury.  Singing demanding music with a pre-nodular swelling, inflammation, or an upper respiratory infection, for instance, can cause serious vocal fold injury that may not heal for weeks or months.
•    “As natural as possible” is always best. Full stop.

•    Avoid foods which create acid indigestion. For some people this is coffee, tea, citrus, chocolate, hot spices, tomato products, or any food which you note causes digestive and acidic indigestion.
•    Certain foods have been know to cause reflux laryngitis, inflammation, and swelling of the arytenoid muscosa and posterior vocal folds. It is very personal body to body so take note of your own body’s responses.
•    Many people also have dairy and/or wheat intolerance causing indigestion (especially since the advent of excessive use of GMO’s, hormones, preservatives, pesticides, and toxic fertilizer which is a whole other post of terrifying what-is-happening-to-food but I digress). Avoid them.
•    In addition, be sure not to eat or drink anything two-three hours before bedtime. You will find that your reflux and your sleep both improve dramatically.
•    It is much better to solve this without medication since all medications have side effects such as dehydration.
•    Know yourself.  Know what foods cause this response, which can vary a lot from person to person. 


•    Don’t sing while flying on an airplane, and keep your talking to a minimum. The background noise is 30 to 60 decibels. It is  an extremely loud environment.You will absolutely fatigue your voice speaking over the noise!
•    The humidity on an airplane might drop as low as 3%—drink one glass of water per hour on the plane, and do everything to avoid singing the same day you fly.
•    Go straight to the hotel after getting off the plane and take a 20-minute steam shower.
•    Call ahead to hotel and ask concierge put a vaporizer in your room so it’s running when you arrive. Most of them have them for guest use , you just have to ask ahead!
•    If they do not, BYO vaporizers. I know I know. It seems bulky, but it is so worth it. Warm or cool mist-at hotels where the recycled air is also very dry.
•    Use only plain water in your vaporizer – no additives or fragrances.
•    Always use saline nasal spray or your a travel Neti Pot to keep membranes moist.
•    If your hotel has a steam room— use it!


•    Vocal fatigue requires vocal rest and sleep.  Noooooot complicated.

Read More:

Part 1: Protection
Part 2: Maintenance

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJune 07, 2017

    Thank you for your posts on Vocal Health.

    I am prone to sore throats, and stress causes me to tighten in my throat too, and although I don't sing the way you do I record a lot of audio books and having a healthy voice is key. I do some of the things you recommend already, but you really broke everything down in a way I understood the reasons behind...and introduced me to a few new ideas I'm excited to implement. It was all very reassuring and helpful.

    Hope you are doing well. Sounds like lots of exciting projects, including After Anatevka. Congrats ��❤️



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