Vocal folds work best when when their surfaces are kept moist
Drink, swig, sip and slurp water. Juices or herbal teas are okay too, but recall that drinks with caffeine dehydrate instead of rehydrate.
In case you missed it in the earlier point, it’s best to limit caffeine. At the very least, if you can’t give up coffee, teas or Mountain Dew, realize that you need to replace the fluids you’ve lost. For example, if you drink a mug of coffee, re-fill it with water and drink it all.
If your home or working environment is dry, consider investing in a humidifier. A good rule of thumb is to keep your environmental surroundings at 30 percent humidity or higher.
Many over-the-counter cold and flu medications contain agents that dehydrate mucus membranes. While this may alleviate some of your cold symptoms, use these sparingly..
Some prescribed medications can also dehydrate the body and the vocal folds. Check to see if your medication may be having an adverse effect on your vocal system.
Colds, Bad Throats and Laryngitis
Often when these viral bugs get you down, your vocal folds become swollen. You may notice this will make your voice deeper, huskier or hoarse. It is important to treat your voice with some extra care when these illnesses occur.
Shush. This may be rudely stated, but at least we got your attention. Sometimes the novelty of having a “new voice” due to changes in the vocal folds makes it tempting to chat. But it is important to remember that during your illness, your vocal tissues are especially vulnerable to damage. Limit talking to bare essentials. Use paper and pencil or e-mail to get your messages across. When you do need to talk, do so softly and avoid shouting or screaming. Avoid throat clearing – this action is damaging to the delicate vocal fold tissues. Try sipping water instead to clear mucus.
Investigators hypothesize that two distinct types of vocal fatigue occur: muscle fatigue and tissue fatigue. Muscular fatigue happens when the muscles of the vocal system are over-used, just as muscles in the other parts of the body ache when they are over-used with strenuous exercise. Tissue fatigue, however, is caused by excessive destruction of the cells composing vocal fold tissues. Persons with vocal fatigue may be able to discern which type they are experiencing with close attention to symptomology. Muscular fatigue is often described as a tight or sharp pain in a diffuse area of the throat. Tissue fatigue, on the other hand, is likely to be a raw or sore feeling in a more localized area – right behind the Adam’s Apple.
Persons with muscular fatigue would likely benefit from working with a vocologist. The vocologist can demonstrate special exercises that will strengthen the muscles used for talking. Other common-sense approaches such as reducing muscle tension during speaking or improving breath support may also be helpful. New research is underway to determine if periods of talking, followed by periods of vocal rest – even as short as 10 minutes – will alleviate the daily toll on vocal musculature.
Acid Reflux Disease and Your Voice
Acid reflux is the spill-over of stomach acids into the larynx, which can damage the tissues. Some voice specialists believe gastro-esophageal reflux disease is a significant contributor to many voice problems. It may be signaled by a sour taste in the mouth or heartburn-like symptoms. Be aware, however, that GERD may be present without symptoms. Some people need surgery or prescribed medication for their GERD. Others benefit by simply implementing new habits:
Do not eat nor drink alcohol within 2-3 hours of sleeping. Limit irritating foods such as coffee, chocolate, spicy or fatty foods, carbonated drinks, and alcohol. Quit smoking. Try to eat moderate amounts of food at a time, rather than taking in daily calories in just one or two meals. Avoid clothing that is tight around the waist, such as snug belts or tight jeans. Remain upright right after eating. Elevate your head with extra pillows or raise the head of your bed on blocks so that you aren’t lying completely flat when you sleep.