We’ve officially entered the heart of cold and flu season. With sickness leading to in-person meeting postponements and canceled plans, we thought we’d take a moment to share some reminders for how you can easily and effectively think about protecting your voice this time of year.
Hydration is so important for vocal health! It is easy to become dehydrated during the winter when our heating systems are running. To determine how much water you should consume in a day, take your body weight (in pounds) and divide it by half. That number equals the number of ounces (roughly) of water you should aim to drink in a day.
This number shouldn’t include alcoholic beverages or caffeinated beverages. We’d also point out that the water you’re consuming today hydrates your body for the following day. So, if you’ve got an important presentation, interview, or pitch, don’t just start chugging water and tea the morning of - instead, aim to hydrate the day before.
Hydration isn’t just about drinking water. To help your vocal folds hydrate, nebulize with saline (your vocal tissue will hydrate faster with this than with steam!) We suggest purchasing a travel-sized one and bringing it on trips that involve long flights.
Running a humidifier, particularly in a dry or radiate-heated building is a great way to continue hydrating your body and keeping your vocal cords happy - particularly if you run heat overnight! Also, if you travel a lot for work, there are compact and affordable travel humidifiers that are great for hotel rooms.
Don’t have a humidifier? Hot steam is your best friend when under the weather. Try and find ways to incorporate getting steam into your body. For example, take a long, hot shower. Or you can boil some water, turn off the heat, cover your head with a towel, and breathe in.
When you’re feeling under the weather, as long as it doesn’t cause you physical pain to do so, we recommend practicing some SOVT exercises.
These exercises will help warm your cords up, and cool them down (perhaps after participating in a panel or loud networking events), and allow you to keep checking in on how your voice is feeling.
Combat throat dryness:
When your throat is sore, we recommend keeping hard candies or non-medicated drops on you, as these will help your throat continue to stay lubricated - remember that moisture/lubrication can help minimize symptoms.
If you are someone who opts for a throat lozenge or cough drop, a reminder that some (though, not all) of those contain medicine, so do check labels and follow serving sizes.
When your throat is swollen, you’ll want to look into how you can reduce that inflammation. We suggest gargling warm salt water. Some people also enjoy adding ginger, honey, turmeric, or lemon to that gargling solution.
There are also some wonderful teas like turmeric and ginger, or throat coat tea, which will help provide comfort to your sore throat.
What to do when you are losing your voice:
Often, when losing their voice, people will switch to whispering, thinking this allows for spoken communication while protecting your vocal cords. In fact, whispering has the opposite effect. The act of whispering brings the vocal folds together more tightly than when they meet for normal speech or sung sounds.
If you’re sick and your vocal cords are already inflamed, you might do more harm by pressing them together with greater force.
Instead, opt for vocal rest. Stick to text messages, Slack or your office chat channels, or an old-fashioned pad and paper and allow your voice to rest.
If your laryngitis persists, seek the help of a medical professional.
The most important, albeit arguably the hardest thing to do when sick, is rest! Allow your body time to recover and don’t overdo it after illness too soon, or you’ll find yourself back in bed! It’s not uncommon to be physically feeling better while your voice is still healing - so do keep resting your voice to allow it a full recovery.