Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. The opinions and examples I give are not to be used instead of actual medical advice or treatment. If you are sick please go to a doctor. If you’re singer and would like to learn the exquisiteness of becoming just a little bit more OCD then read on.
Getting sick sucks. Especially if you’re a singer whose next gig is in 2 weeks but you’ve got a nose full of junk and a throat full of cough. Here are some very basic to-do’s that can help get you back to vocal health. This is not a comprehensive list of wellness but just what I find that works.
Get one for your bedroom. This is a must-have-non-negotiable asset for the busy singer who wants to stay healthy. Message me for my personal pick.
You can easily get one at your local drugstore and it’s a godsend for dealing with a stuffy nose and post-nasal drip naturally. Just follow the directions on the box and voila you’re on your way to being able to breath better.
PORTABLE FACIAL STEAMER OR NEBULIZER
This is absolutely necessary for any early morning singing that you have to do. And by early morning I mean anything before 3pm. The one I have is marketed as a ‘facial sauna’ but it has a smaller attachment to direct the steam just to the nose/mouth area. Again, message me for my name brand.
HOT TEA WITH HONEY
For real, it’s that easy. The hot tea loosens up the mucous; the honey coats the throat to ease coughing. You could get some fancy throat coat tea (which I must say I do drink) but honestly just warm up what you already got (black, green, white, herbal) and add honey. Caffeine free tea would be better since too much caffeine can dehydrate you which is the opposite of what we want to achieve but 1 or 2 cups with caffeine won’t be too bad. I’ve found that turmeric tea is also a great singer tea. It has anti-inflammation properties that benefit not only the throat but also the entire body in general. I also take a Bae immunity tea daily that has specific herbs for immune health, so they claim. Either way, it tastes good and keeps me hydrated.
SCARVES AND HATS
Yes. Seems pretty obvious but cover up your throat especially and head if possible before you go outside in any cold weather. There’s only a very thin layer of skin around your throat and you want to keep it warm to promote blood flow. Keep everything covered and breathe through your nose.
Dedicated cough drops are okay. They do the job keep the throat lubricated and help to ease coughing but I find them a bit chemically and even the herbal cough drops are more expensive than just plain sugar free hard candy. Sucking on some hard candy (or cough drops) helps keep the saliva flowing and in turn any mucous from building up. Jolly Ranchers come to mind but really anything like that will work.
Take them. Find things that work for you and use them. I take tons of natural supplements and vitamins to promote a strong immune system that my husband calls my ‘hippie pills’ but who cares, they work. And as soon as he starts coming down with something you can bet he wants to take them too. I take a multi-vitamin that is high in vitamins A, C, E and I use B-complex vitamin when I’m feeling like I’m coming down with something. I also use Lysine (for cold sores). Manuka honey and colloidal silver for immune boosts. Liquid chlorophyll and blue green algae for energy boosts. Another great quickie vitamin is Emergency powder. They come in easy to dissolve packets and taste great. The Airborne brand is also very good in this area and Zicam works wonders for cold prevention. You can the picture of my medicine cupboard… it’s packed full of everything.
There comes a time when you just have to take some over the counter medicine to get through the day. For any sinus decongestion buy the ones that say ‘non-drying’, I find that they work really well and don’t over due the drying of the sinuses. Also if you take a cough syrup make sure that it is not only an expectorant but also a cough suppressant. For me, I find that when a cough syrup is only an expectorant that I cough WAY too much. Regular people are allowed to cough. Singers should keep coughing to a minimum. I use Delsym but there are plenty of good ones to choose from. I’ve also tried Mucinex (all different versions from the basic mucous thinning to sinus decongestants and cough suppressants) and all the versions give me medicine head; which I’m not willing to experience. Orginally when Mucinex first came out it was exciting because it’s the over-the-counter version of a great mucous thinner called Humabid that you could only get with a prescription from your doctor. BUT I find that it just doesn’t have the same effect as good old Humabid (you see what singer’s daydream about?... a rare glimpse into a singer’s ‘oh my goodness, I CAN’T get sick’ mentality. I hope reading this is developing your own harbinger of bad luck doppelganger.
Drink. Drink. Drink. Get yourself a 1-liter water bottle and carry it with you everywhere you go. Make sure you drink at least that whole bottle in one day. I drink about 2-3 liters depending on how much hot yoga I’ve been doing. Also, your summer versus winter drinking is always a bit less in the winter.
WARM UPS USING ‘M’ ‘N’ AND ‘NG’
If you do some very simple warm ups using the sounds ‘M’ ‘N’ or ‘NG’ then the mucous can start gently vibrating it’s way out. Just stay in the middle voice, don’t go to high or too low. See video above.
About the Author:
Lyric soprano Luciana Cecille is a native of São Paolo, Brazil. She has been a finalist in the International Leyla Gencer Voice Competition in Istanbul, Turkey and the Bidu Sayao Vocal Competition in Minas Gerais, Brazil. In 1999 Ms. Cecille debuted with The Washington National Opera as Bridget Booth in The Crucible. Her other opera roles include Zerlina in Don Giovanni, the leading role in Conrad Susa's Transformations, Nina in Massenet's Cherubin, the title role in Ravel's L'enfant et les Sortilèges, and the Forest Bird in Siegfried with the
Emerging Singer's Program under Evelyn Lear.
Ms. Cecille has been a young artist with the Aspen Opera Theater, Ash Lawn-Highlands Summer Festival, and Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme in Aldeburgh, England. In 2011 Ms. Cecille made her European debut with Concerlirica International in Spain, singing the roles of Violetta in La Traviata, Adina in The Elixir of Love, and Mimi in La Boheme. Recently in London, England she sang Pamina with Chelmsford City Opera’s production of The Magic Flute and 1st Lady with Brent Opera, UK. She has also been a member of the Washington National Opera Chorus for 17 years and sings regularly with the Washington Concert Opera.
Ms. Cecille holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s in voice from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University. She teaches a wide range of levels in classical opera technique and repertoire, along with other styles of singing including musical theater, jazz, and popular music. She has studied Italian Bel Canto with the British/Greek mezzosoprano Glenys Linos in Vienna, Austria and is currently the student of the Metropolitan Opera baritone Mark Oswald in New York City.
While pursuing her operatic career, Ms. Cecille also became a certified Bikram Yoga teacher. She has taught yoga locally and internationally for ten years. She teaches her voice students about proper body awareness and alignment for the most effortless production of sound, which reduces any excess stress to the vocal cords whether on the operatic stage or behind a microphone. She also is an expert at managing stage fright through breathing and other awareness techniques. Although Ms. Cecille has traveled extensively for her opera and yoga careers, she has called Maryland her home for 35 years. She lives in Silver Spring with her husband and 2-year old son.