Sore Throat from Singing – Everything You Need to Know
When you depend on your voice for your livelihood, it can become vital to understand how to soothe and prevent a sore throat from singing.
Sore throats are perhaps one of the most common irritants for singers. For most people, a sore throat is a simple annoyance that can be fixed by simply waiting for it to heal naturally.
Note: We are not medical experts. We are just giving advice on how to manage sore throats from the experience of singers. If you have a sore throat (particularly due to global current events) then go and see a doctor to find out what the root cause of it is.
Think of a sore throat as your vocal cords indicating that they are tired. Your vocal cords are delicate membranes that are surrounded by muscles. If these muscles become infected or are overused, they can swell up, which can result in a hoarse or sore throat.
If you find that you have a sore throat, you must rest your voice as far as possible. This not means refraining from singing, and talking software rather than whispering (whispering actually can strain your voice quite a bit).
If you continue to strain your vocal cords, you risk major and even permanent damage to your voice.
Symptoms of a Sore Throat from Singing
If your sore throat and hoarseness persist, you might have inflamed vocal cords. If you think that this might be the case for you, here are some signs you should be on the lookout for:
- Persistent hoarseness over time: If your voice has been hoarse or sore for more than two weeks, or if there has been a change in the sound of your voice, you should consider consulting a medical professional.
- Pain when using your voice: If it feels like you’re using a large amount of energy in order to use your voice, it could be a symptom of muscle strain.
- A low-grade fever: Fever combined with a sore throat can be a sign of laryngitis.
- Swollen glands: Another sign of laryngitis, if you glands are swollen in combination with a sore or hoarse throat, you should consider visiting a doctor.
How to Avoid a Sore Throat from Singing
While it is important to know what to look out for to confirm you have a sore throat or inflamed vocal cords, it is even more important to understand how to avoid it in the first place. You can find a lot of tips when it comes to taking care of your voice. However, some of the most effective include:
- Don’t smoke: This may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but it is an important one. Aside from the myriad of ways in which smoking is harmful to your health, it can also cause a scratchy or sore throat, as well as other, more serious voice and breathing-related concerns that can affect your singing, like asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis.
- Stay hydrated: It is easier to damage your throat if it is dry. Make sure to drink plenty of water when you are singing/performing. Ensure that it is water that you are drinking – other drinks, like alcohol, are not only unhelpful but can also be actively harmful. Alcohol, for example, actively dehydrates your vocal folds.
- Warm-up your voice: Vocal exercises can help warm up your voice before a performance. While it is possible to perform without warming up your voice, it increases the likelihood of you straining your voice. By starting with vocal exercises, you give your voice a chance to stretch before using it for more complex singing.
- Avoid eating late at night: This can cause your larynx to be flooded with stomach acid, which in turn causes hoarseness.
If you have already developed a sore throat, you should take care of your voice immediately. The first step is to get a doctor’s advice – visit an ENT or physician as soon as possible. This helps you to confirm that you do have a more serious issue beyond a simple sore throat. If you have damaged your voice further, visiting a doctor and getting an early diagnosis will help you heal faster.
Natural Remedies Used to Help
Once you are certain that you are simply suffering from a simple sore throat, there are several natural techniques you can try to speed up healing:
- Hot water steam inhalation: this not only helps to clear sinuses, but it also makes it easier for moisture to travel to your cords.
- Add some honey to hot water: the honey coats your throat and prevents further wear and tear while it heals. Furthermore, it also helps soother your sore throat.
- Herbal options: there are several natural herbs available that can speed up healing of the throat and voice. Some of these include cayenne, sage, slippery elm, and turmeric. An effective remedy is to mix turmeric into a glass of hot milk to help soothe a sore throat.
- Take the time out: don’t try to push your voice. If you have a sore throat, it means your voice is stressed out. Allow it the time to heal, and curtail any use of your voice to aid in healing. This includes speaking and whispering.
Pushing Your Vocals too Far
In particularly serious cases, pushing your vocal cords too hard can cause permanent damage. One of the ways in which you can damage your voice is vocal cord paralysis. This occurs when the nerve impulses to your voice box are disrupted. This results in the paralysis of the muscles of the vocal cords and can not only affect your ability to speak and sing but even to simply breathe.
Some symptoms of vocal cord paralysis include:
- Loss of pitch
- Inability to speak loudly
- Loss of gag reflex
- Choking or coughing when eating or drinking
If you have had persistent hoarseness of your throat for two or more weeks, you should consult your doctor immediately.
Another way to damage your voice is by singing too loudly. Initially, this only causes a sore or strained throat. However, continuing to sing too loudly with bad technique can lead to permanent damage. This can take several forms, including:
- The rupture of your vocal cord lining. This, in turn, can also cause bleeding.
- Growths on your vocal cords in the form of nodules, polyps, or cysts.
- Fibrosis, or a thickening of the lining of your vocal fold.
As a singer, you depend on your voice for your career. This means that taking care of it is paramount.
Making sure you avoid a sore throat by taking good care of your voice and taking care to help your throat and vocal cords heal in the event that you do strain them, is essential knowledge for all singers.