Myths and Facts: Caring for Your Voice during the Winter Months

Taking care of the voice or Vocal Hygiene

can be thought of as the care and feeding of the voice. 

These are things we do to keep the voice healthy.

To take care of the voice, we must also take care of the body.

Here are the facts regarding hydration of your body and therefore your voice ~

INTERNAL HYDRATION

Glass.Water.

To keep the vocal folds moist from the inside, make sure you drink plenty of water.

The vocal folds function best when the entire body is well hydrated. Since fluids and food pass through the pyriform sinus cavities avoiding the vocal folds and air passageway, vocal folds do not receive direct hydration. Rather, the body supplies hydration to the areas of the body that need it foremost. This is why it is important to hydrate on a consistent and constant basis as it does not help your voice if you plan on waiting and drinking water just before your choir rehearsal.

  • Good hydration also makes the mucus that covers the vocal folds thin and slippery, so that they move against each other easily and vibrate smoothly. Think of the mucus coating as being like motor oil to your car’s engine: if it is thin and slippery, the engine will run smoothly!
  • Alcohol is drying to the entire body. Monitor your consumption of alcohol as it can make the vocal folds drier. If you are a regular coffee drinker of caffeine, moderate and regular intakes are now considered not to be as de-hydrating as once believed. Research shows that a profound tolerance to the effects of caffeine and its response are much diminished in individuals who regularly consume tea or coffee. Doses of caffeine equivalent to the amount normally found in standard servings of tea, coffee and carbonated soft drinks appear to have no diuretic action. Coffee contains 95% water.
  • Foods that have a lot of water in them can help with hydration. Examples: cucumbers, melon, grapes, and gelatin. It might be a great idea to stock the fridge at work as well as at home so they are readily available.
  • Dairy products do not produce phlegm in the majority of people (the exception is people who are allergic to casein, the protein in some types of milk). Instead, the high fat content in dairy products thickens the mucous that is already present in a person’s airway, making it seem like there is more phlegm. Thicker phlegm can be just as problematic as having more phlegm. This thickening sensation can be diminished by eating dairy products that have a lower fat content.

MEDICATIONS AND HYDRATION

Many medications, such as cold and allergy medications, are drying to the body. Try to avoid these medications to help your body stay hydrated.

Cough.Syryp.

Your doctor may recommend a mucolytic medication. This is a medication that can  help keep mucus thin and slippery. These medications are  available  over the counter. GUAIFENESIN is the active ingredient. Brand names include Humibid, Mucinex, and Robitussin.  Be sure to get the preparation that does not contain decongestants, antihistamines,  or cough suppressants.

Ludens.Cough.Drops.

Many cough drops and throat lozenges are drying to the mucus membranes of                the mouth and throat. This is especially true for products that contain   menthol and eucalyptus. The best lozenges for soothing the mouth or throat are glycerin lozenges.

EXTERNAL HYDRATION

Hydrating.Bowl.

Steam inhalation: Inhaling or breathing steam helps the voice box stay moist and can be very soothing to irritated vocal folds. Breathe the steam through your nose for three to five minutes, two to three times per day.

  • Breathe shower steam or from a personal steamer.
  • You can also boil water, pour it into a sink, and breathe the steam.
  • Never breathe steam standing over a hot stove or boiling water.
  • Moisten a washcloth under hot water, hold it over your mouth and nose, then breathe in.

humidifier.

Room humidification: You can increase the moisture in your home or office by using a room humidifier or hot water vaporizer.  Cool mist vaporizers can cause chemicals and germs to get into the air.

Room humidity should be between 30 and 50 percent. You can check the moisture in the air in your home by using a hygrometer.

The most important thing when using room humidifiers or vaporizers is to carefully follow the cleaning instructions in the package. If you don’t keep the humidifier or vaporizer clean, germs can get into the air that you breathe.

Allergies to Mold or Mildew: Be careful using humidifiers or vaporizers. They can  increase the moisture in the environment and can cause mold and mildew to grow.

Even after maintaining proper hydration and practicing good vocal hygiene, we must always use our voice efficiently with proper breath support and appropriate resonance.

To learn more about vocal hygiene, you may visit: Duke Voice Center.

References:

Daugherty, J. (2012). Vocal health handout. University of Kansas.  Lawrence,  KS.

Daugherty, J. (2015). Graduate vocal pedagogy.  Retrieved from http://cmed.faculty.ku.edu

Duke Voice Care Center.  Vocal health information. Retrieved from http://dukevoicecare.org 

Erickson-Levendoski, E., Sivasankar, M. (2011). Investigating the effects of caffeine on  phonation.  Journal of Voice. 25. (5). E215-E219. Feldenkrais, M. (1949). Body and mature behavior. New York: International Universities Press.

Killer, S.C., Blannin, A. K., Jeukendrup, A. E. (2014). No evidence of dehydration with moderate coffee intake: a counterbalanced cross-over study in a free-living population. PLoS One. 9 (1). e84154. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084154

Parillas, D. (n.d.). Vocal hygiene – part 2: hydrate! hydrate! hydrate! why vocal hydration is important to singing. Vocal Brilliance. Retrieved from: http://vocalbrilliance.com/blog/vocal-hygiene-part-2-hydrate-hydrate-hydrate-why-hydration-is-to-singing

 

Published by

Lynn Swanson

Executive Artistic Director Milwaukee Children's Choir

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