Voice Care advice for singers: Sore throats, mucus and fatigue.

When should a singer seek medical advice for a voice problem? What are the signs of vocal injury? And how do gastric reflux, asthma, chronic illness or injury affect the voice? Discover the answers to these questions from iSing Magazine’s last free Vocal Health and Wellbeing Q & A Webinar

In the webinar, Line Hilton, Performing Arts Medicine specialist and iSing Magazine’s founder and editor, answers some of the most common vocal health questions.

She also outlines the importance of singers taking a holistic health approach. It’s not enough to master vocal technique (although that’s pretty important too); singers need to look after their physical and mental wellbeing as lifestyle, diet, illness, and injury can have a huge impact on the voice. 

Here’s a flavour of some of the questions tackled in the webinar.

When should someone seek medical help for a voice problem?

Warning signs include voice loss, persistent pain when singing or speaking, vocal fatigue or loss of range. Professional voice users experiencing any of these issues should seek help within 48 hours. If you’re not a professional voice user, seek help if symptoms persist for more than two weeks.

Who should singers go to for medical advice about a voice problem?

First stop should be an ENT laryngologist. Be aware that not all ENTs have studied the larynx so make sure the ENT you see is a specialist in this area.

You might also consider seeing a speech and language therapist or a singing teacher with an interest in vocology and who has trained in vocal health.

Depending on your specific circumstances other professionals may also be able to help, such as: a physiotherapist to release tension around the throat; a chiropractor or osteopath to help with posture, or a yoga or pilates teacher to assist with mindset and posture.

I can speak but I’m struggling to sing. What should I do?

Any type of voice loss is most likely due to swelling. This can be caused by even a mild cold or cough, resulting in loss of range. If this is the case for you, rest your voice, hydrate, steam and look after yourself. Manuka honey, lemon or Vocalzone lozenges can help. If the problem continues, seek medical advice (see above for how long you should wait before seeing an ENT).

What should a singer do if their voice is sore or raspy?

Take heed as this could be a warning sign that, without action, trouble lies ahead. It’s important you warm up before you perform or rehearse – semi-occluded vocal tract (SOVT) exercises [https://www.isingmag.com/videos/semi-occluded-vocal-tract-exercises/] are great for this. A professional athlete wouldn’t race without warming up. You need to do the same. Regular singing breaks are also important – the voice isn’t like a regular instrument that you can just play and play. A good vocal coach will help you with exercises and tips to keep your voice in shape.

I’m a singer with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). What can I do to support my voice while I recover?

Rest and hydration are key. Listen to your body and don’t fight fatigue. A regime of SOVT exercises might help but take it slowly and gauge how you feel. Even on days when you feel good, be careful not to overdo it. Find a vocal coach with an understanding of your condition.

What tips do you have for a singer experiencing increased mucus production in the vocal tract?

When we sing even a small amount of mucus can have an impact on our tone, range and ability to work through transitions. Firstly, identify the origin of the problem. Excess mucus can be caused by allergy, infection, illness, asthma or disease. You need to address the cause first and foremost. Once again good hydration is important – being well hydrated means the mucus is runny so we just swallow it. Drink enough water a day so that your urine is a pale straw colour and use a steamer or nebuliser for 20mins 1-2x a day.. Some singers swear by Neti pots to help flush the sinuses. Vocal exercises with a straw can also help. 

I’m a singer with asthma. What issues should I be aware of?

Asthma medication can dry out the laryngeal area and vocal folds, so make sure you hydrate, steam and use a nebuliser. Talk to your doctor about the best way to manage your medication. Never stop taking your medication without seeking professional advice. It may also we worth exploring the work of Robin De Haas [http://www.breathingcoordination.ch/en/teachers/robin-de-haas/] who helped developed a methodology called MDH Breathing Coordination which has helped many asthmatics and people with emphysema to better regulate their breathing for singing.

Gastric reflux is playing havoc with my singing. What can I do?

Gastric reflux causes acid to come up from the stomach area and this acid can reach the larynx area and go onto the vocal folds. Even a few drops can cause burning, discomfort – and worse! Gastric reflux can be caused by a variety of reasons, such as stress and diet. It’s crucial to control the acid reflux. This might involve taking medication, at least in the first instance, until you can devise a strategy to manage the condition. 

Lots of information is available on the internet about this issue so do your research. Start HERE by reading Line Hilton’s ten top tips for reducing the impact of gastric reflux on the voice.

When can a singer resume singing following an illness?

If you’re not experiencing any symptoms or pain, and if your singing voice is normal, then you can get started, but take it slowly and build up over time. Start with gentle SOVT exercises. Make sure you’re well rested and hydrated and take any prescribed medication. It can take 72 hours or more for our vocal fold cells to recover once we’re out of the acute phase.


Do you need help with your vocal health?

Join Line Hilton for the next free Vocal Health & Wellbeing Webinar September 6th 7-8pm

You will need to become either a Free or Paid Tribe member to get registration link.

Click HERE to join The Tribe.

Our mission is to empower the singer through their voice, performance, health, understanding of the biz, and mindset so they can go out and create to their heart’s content.