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Identifying Everyday Abuses to Your Singing Voice

Your singing voice is subject to many threats everyday. Be sure to recognize potential abuses to your voice and throat, and keep them at bay before a big performance. The following list shows just some of the threats; you may find other factors that greatly affect your vocal health over a period of time. In particular, keep these in mind:

  • Alcohol: Alcohol dilates blood vessels in your body, which isn’t good for your vocal cords if you plan to sing. When the blood vessels dilate, the blood thins and comes to the surface, which makes you more susceptible to a hemorrhage on your vocal cords.

    Limit your alcohol, and avoid it on days when you have to practice or perform. Drink plenty of water on days when you do choose to drink, because alcohol dehydrates you and stays in your system up to three days.

  • Cigarette smoke: The smoke often causes inflammation of the tissues in the throat, which makes singing more difficult. Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke at all times, because long-term use or association can permanently damage your vocal cords. You especially want to avoid smoke for several days before a lesson or performance.

  • Food: Certain foods can irritate your voice. Dairy products often cause mucus to build up, which makes you clear your throat frequently. Pay attention to how your body reacts to certain foods so you know what to avoid the day before or day of a big concert or performance.

  • Medications: Many medications dry out your throat. If you need to take the medications, compensate by drinking more water so you don’t get dry when you sing. Talk to your doctor to see whether you can avoid medications (or change the timing of the dosage) on days when you have to do plenty of singing.

  • Pollen or dust: Sensitivities to allergens, such as pollen or dust, may cause the vocal folds and throat to swell. Ask your doctor for suggestions to help with allergy problems. In the meantime, take some basic precautions:

    Clean your house regularly to prevent dust bunnies from collecting and bothering you, choose nonallergenic materials for your bed linens, use a vacuum cleaner that removes all pet hair, and avoid areas with large quantities of dust. Listen to the local weather report for the pollen count.

    Most areas have higher pollen counts in the early morning or early evening. If you limit outdoor activities to the middle of the day, you’re less likely to encounter the highest levels of pollen.

  • Throat clearing: If you’re a habitual throat clearer, now is the time to break that habit and get to the root of the problem. Maybe you clear your throat excessively because mucus builds up from postnasal drip or acid reflux.

    Swallow instead of clearing your throat, and talk with your doctor about the cause. For many singers, throat clearing is just an unconscious habit that results from trying to clear the vocal cords for singing. Singing with a little mucus isn’t going to hurt.

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