What should I do if I'm sick and I have to sing?
If you are a singer who's struggling with awful sinus problems due allergies or colds, hold off on canceling that performance just yet, you can still sing! Unless you have a fever or a more serious illness, there are steps you can take to pamper your voice and keep you in as good of shape as possible. You just have to be more intentional about taking care of your voice. For singers, it is important to have clear sinuses so your air can flow as it should. You also want to eliminate as much "gunk" off your vocal folds as possible, and you need to keep them hydrated. Aside from the obvious tips like, drinking lots of water, getting lots of rest and gently balancing your voice before you sing, here are some of my favorite go to remedies that will help you perform your best. Just remember to BREATHE:
Build your immune system - Take some Vitamin C or Natural Vitamin-C power packets found at your health food store. There is a great natural nasal spray called, Soverign Silver, that will build your immune system. Just spray 5-10 sprays/5 times a day . Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics are also great for boosting your body's immune system through your digestive tract. Ask your local natural health practitioners or a pharmacist at your health food store for brand recommendations.
Rinse nasal passages daily - Flush out your nasal passages and dry up that drainage by using NeilMed makes Neti-Pots and Nasal Rinses that can be found at any pharmacy. Just use them a couple times a day. These products are prepackaged bottles and little packets of saline that should be mixed with water that has been boiled and cooled, or distilled water. I prefer the nasal rinse to the Neti-Pot because there is a little less gag reflex for me. Just read the directions on the box. It's simple, and you'll be breathing easier in no time.
Essential oils are amazing for opening up the nasal passages, soothing your throat and even sleeping more soundly. Place a diffuser beside your bed and add your favorite fragrances. My favorites are the Lavendar, Lemon and Frankinsence oils. There are many other recommended oils you could try as well. While Peppermint and Eucalyptus oils are good for respiratory issues, but they could cause your vocal folds to dry out, so use with caution.
Avoid foods that produce mucus or inflammation - Dairy/eggs, wheat, sugar of any kind, high fat and fried foods, caffeine, alcohol, are all foods that cause inflammation in your body, which produces mucous, making it more difficult to swallow, breathe and sing. Instead, eat fruits (citrus, pineapples, berries), green veggies, onions, garlic and spices like Ginger and Tumeric. Spicy foods like jalapenos, cayenne peppers and hot spices are also beneficial.
Teas, throat sprays and topical ointments - Drink, spray and apply topical products to soothe a sore throat and open up a congested nasal passage.
Teas - There are some great teas that help relieve many symptoms: Traditional Medinicals Organic Teas can be found at many grocery and health food stores. They sell "Breathe Easy", "Echinacea Plus", and "Throat Coat" Herbal Teas. Yogi brand sells "Throat Comfort" Tea. There are Chamomile teas to help with relaxation, as well as Yogi "Stress Relief" and Traditional Medicinals, "Organic Nighty Night" Teas. These will help if you are having a hard time sleeping.
Throat Sprays - "Singer's Soothing Throat Spray" will soothe a sore throat. Superior Vocal Heath's "Vocal Rescue" and "Throat Saver" were created for singers and can both be found online. I found a local product in a dropper bottle called, "Texas Cedar Fever". It contains antigens specific to Texas and helps fight local allergies. Other states may offer similiar products.
Topical Ointments like Vick's Rub and Pure Peppermint Essential Oil diluted with a carrier oil can be applied to the skin and can soothe a congested chest or stuffy nose.
Humidifiers/hot showers/steamers - Take hot, steam showers to loosen congestion. Or, cover your head with a towel and lean over a pot of boiling water, for 10 minutes. Just be careful not to touch it. Sleeping with a humidifier in your room is great to keep your nasal passages clear while you sleep. Personal humidifiers can be a bit pricey, but they are very effective.
Exercise - Mild exercise, like walking or hiking, will help clear up congestion and make you feel better, in general, if you have a mild cold or allergies. Just keep it low key until you are better, and don't push yourself too hard. Sweating a little can raise body temperature and aid in burning off any infection. It's best not to exercise if you have a fever, cough, upset stomach, or feel too achy.
If you are wondering how to vocalize when you are sick, please check out my blog: "What is the best way to vocalize if I am sick?"