Laryngitis can cost a singer opportunity and money, or just turn a fun gig into a struggle. There are several causes for laryngitis. This article addresses the easiest one to prevent and fix: illness.
As a singer/songwriter touring through Europe used to be tough on the throat for me. I often spent six to ten weeks at a pop crammed inside a van, sometimes ten gigs in a row without a rest. Shows lasted hours, clubs were clouds of smoke, I generally could not hear myself through shoddy house system monitors. I was meeting hundreds of people, getting little sleep, and not enough exercise. It was difficult to avoid sickness, hoarseness and laryngitis.
I take much better care of myself now. As a vocal coach, I’m one of those “I never get sick” people. I cannot remember the last time I lost my voice due to illness until recently, a week before my scheduled taping on “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” I carelessly kissed my sick child on the lips and got a fever of 102. There was absolutely no voice coming out the day before the show. My vocal cords were swollen. It was all air.
Students often ask me about laryngitis treatment. Prevention is the best medicine, and when possible, rest is the best solution, but I also have a 24 hour cure for the times a singer feels she must sing.
Prevention: Drink water, take your vitamins (I use Gan Mao Ling if I feel something coming on, recommended by my acupuncturist, Dr. Andrea Natta), get rest, wash your hands often, avoid too much alcohol or caffeine. For hoarseness in the mornings, try sleeping with your head slightly propped up, avoiding spicy or acidic foods several hours before going to bed, in case minor acid reflux is the culprit. For arid climates or dry air due to heating, use a hot steam vaporizer on a low setting – too much steam can cause mold, and many people are allergic to mold. Avoid stress and emotional upset before shows or recording. On airplanes, bring a hoody sweatshirt and wear it backwards with the hood over your face or wrap a scarf around your mouth to protect your voice from dry air. Also, try a sleep collar – I like it better than pillows, because it keeps my throat warm and I get better rest.
Below is the regimen I used to ged rid of my laryngitis caused by phlegm and swollen cords, because I got cocky about preventing illness. I regained my voice 80% – enough for the show taping. I recommend only doing this, if you have to and think hard about if you have to or not. I felt missing the taping of this show would be too big an opportunity to lose. If you can cancel the show and rest – REST. You should not follow the regimen without talking to your doctor. Fortunately, my voice student Dr. Sam Adams is also an internist in San Francisco, and he reviewed the regimen with me. I want to emphasize that this is my 24 hour cure for laryngitis that is caused by sickness only. I will cover other causes of laryngitis including strain, overuse and polyps in future articles. Also, remember not to push your voice when you regain it. Take it easy. Come back slowly and reschedule anything you can reschedule.