Singing, sore throats and head colds are not a good mix. We’re all susceptible to getting winter (or summer) colds – I have one right now and it’s May – but there are ways to carry on singing despite the dreaded sore throat or lurgy.
Sore throats can be caused by viruses, overuse, bacteria and tiredness. However, there are plenty of ways to deal with a sore throat if you have performances to get through. Prevention is always better than cure so firstly, sleep! One of the first parts of the body to suffer when you’re tired is your throat, so make sure you get plenty of early nights when you can. If you have a late night from performing try to have a lay in or a nap the next day. Second, don’t strain your voice if you can help it. This means making sure your singing technique is up to scratch, not pushing or straining over loud bands and making sure you can hear yourself on stage. It also means resting your voice in between performances.
So, what do you do if you are rested and you haven’t strained your voice, but you get a viral or bacterial sore throat and you have performances coming up. Obviously rest your body and your voice and then start to treat it. If it’s viral, antibiotics will not help, although they will often be helpful for bacterial sore throats, such as tonsillitis, so check with your doctor if in doubt.
For any sore throat, I always find the most helpful cure is gargling with warm salt water – I like to use seasalt and freshly boiled water. You can do this several times a day and it will really help. Warm salt water is great for treating any infection due to it’s antiseptic properties. My tip is try not to swallow it! Another helpful tip is to drink plenty of warm liquid. I only drink warm water or herbal teas without milk when I have sore throats. The heat kills off infection in the throat, and the more liquid you can drink, the easier it is for your body to deal with the cold virus, as any mucus can be flushed through more easily (Mayo Clinic). Hot honey and lemon is a perfect drink for sore throats. The honey is soothing and the lemon will give you an added Vitamin C boost!
Sore throats are often accompanied by a blocked nose and this is terrible for singing, unless you like that nasal “Janice” sound. I recommend steaming to clear out the nasal passages and use a sinus medication. Saline nasal drops and sprays are a great idea to get rid of stuffiness too. One thing I can’t be without whenever I’m singing are Vocal Zones. These are great for clearing the nasal passages too when stuffiness strikes. They’re helpful for singing when you have a sore throat and when you have a cough to soothe the throat.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to take over-the-counter cold remedies to see you through the performance.
So to recap my op Tips for singing with a sore throat/head cold are:
- Great Vocal Technique
- Warm Salt Water
- Plenty of warm liquids
- Hot lemon and honey drinks
- Vocal Zones (the singer’s little helper!)
- Over-the-counter cold remedies
Get well soon and remember “the show must go on” …..