Wohoo, yeah! It’s allergy season. *cough cough, sniff sniff*.
If you’re like me and suffer from hay fever but also enjoy singing, how do you avoid letting your allergies get in the way of your vocal prowess?
Now, for most singers hay fever isn’t too much of a problem, except when you need to sing at an outdoor event or if the pollen count is particularly high, but there are a couple of things you can do to look after your voice generally which are even more helpful when hay fever is rife.
By the way, some of these tips have been learnt from The Handbook for Working Singers by Roma Waterman – if you’re serious about singing, I highly recommend giving this a read. It’s full of helpful tips, advice and some really good warm up and breathing exercises.
Anyway, here we go:
- Drink water – Keeping your throat and body hydrated is a good thing anyway, but is especially important if you’re taking anti-histamines or decongestants as these tend to dry the throat. I’m not saying don’t take tablets, but if you do it’s a good idea to compensate the drying effect by drinking a little more.
- Try a soothing tea – Again, keeping hydrated is good and herbal teas help you to do just that. Some teas, such as Throat Comfort Tea also have the added benefit of being soothing to the throat. I like this tea because the liquorice in it makes it naturally sweet – but that might just be me and my sweet tooth! I hear that ginger tea or sage tea are both good too.
- Avoid chocolate – alright, just before you sing anyway – I can’t see myself giving it up, so I wouldn’t expect anyone else to! But the point is that chocolate increases the production of catarrh, which, if you’re suffering from hay fever you have enough of already (yucky but true!). Not eating chocolate in the run-up to a gig or singing session should help your airways to stay clearer. Dairy products are also said to have to same effect.
- Honey, honey – honey has been used as a traditional remedy for soothing sore throats for many years, and with good reason. It’s said that eating locally produced honey is helpful to reduce hay fever symptoms – the small amount of pollen in the honey is supposed to desensitise your immune system. Whether this is the case, I don’t know (I’ve never noticed any effect on my own symptoms, and this article certainly suggests that this isn’t the case), but taking honey in warm water or herb tea will definitely help to coat and soothe a sore or scratchy throat. You can even just swallow a teaspoon of honey for instant relief, if you’re so inclined.
- Know when to stop – if your throat feels swollen and it hurts to swallow, you definitely shouldn’t sing. My own hay fever symptoms aren’t normally this bad, but I know that some suffers get a stronger reaction than I do. A throat that’s a bit sore is normally ok as long as you don’t push it and make sure you’re singing correctly, but if it hurts when you swallow that means that your throat is swollen and singing will exacerbate the problem, possibly causing long-term damage. On a similar note, be careful about taking pain killers when you have a sore throat and need to sing – you won’t be able to judge whether you’re causing yourself more pain until the drugs wear off – not good!
- Time your medicine – Try experimenting with finding the best time to take whatever medicine you use. I find that taking my steriod nasal spray around 1/2 an hour before I sing really cuts down on congestion, which is definitely a help. When I take antihistamine tablets, rather than taking the whole dose in the morning I find it’s better to split the tablet by taking half in the morning, and the second half in the afternoon if I need it (note, I’m not overdosing here – it’s a half-dose each time! Be careful not to go overboard!). Personally, I find this helps cut down on drowsiness later in the day, and again, it helps with congestion as I usually sing in the evening. You may find that a different strategy helps you, depending on your most active periods of singing.
So there we go, some tips for looking after your voice while the pollen is rife!
Of course, the most important thing you can do to support your voice is to make sure that you are singing correctly and using a good technique. If you are worried about your technique or are having problems when you sing, make sure you consult a good singing teacher who should be able to help with your individual issues.
I’d love to hear from you – do you suffer from hay fever? Does it affect your singing, and if so, how do you deal with it? Do you have your own tips for looking after your voice? Let me know in the comments!