Hey Everyone! This is something I've been meaning to write about and seems like now is the time.
To all of my singing friends out there and those of you who use your voice for your profession, Laryngitis, our age-old nemesis can show it's ugly head at the most inopportune times. For most vocalists, it can take away our voice completely and for some it gives a rough, dry lower ranged sound. Trust me, it's not fun being on stage without a voice. Standing there like a "stage ornament" is no fun at all! So What is Laryngitis? Why do we get Laryngitis? How does it occur? What can we do to recover faster from it? We will be covering all of that in this featured blog article today! So let's get started!
Laryngitis: It's an inflammation of your voice box (larynx) from overuse, irritation or infection.
Inside the larynx are your vocal cords — two folds of mucous membrane covering muscle and cartilage. Normally, your vocal cords open and close smoothly, forming sounds through their movement and vibration.
But with laryngitis, your vocal cords become inflamed or irritated. This swelling causes distortion of the sounds produced by air passing over them. As a result, your voice sounds hoarse. In some cases of laryngitis, your voice can become almost undetectable. For me, I sound like a bass singer Haha!
Laryngitis may be short-lived (acute) or long-lasting (chronic). Most cases of laryngitis are triggered by a temporary viral infection or vocal strain and aren't serious. Persistent hoarseness can sometimes signal a more serious underlying medical condition so make sure you go see a good ENT doctor who specializes in voice! Afterall, this is how we make our living.
Laryngitis symptoms can last less than a couple of weeks and are caused by something minor, such as a virus.
Signs and symptoms can include:
Weak voice or voice loss
Tickling sensation and rawness of your throat
I get all of these and it is rough trying to perform while all of that is going on but what do we do? We do our best, we never push vocally or strain. That defeats the purpose and could potentially injure your vocal chords.
You can manage most acute cases of laryngitis with self-care steps, such as resting your voice and drinking plenty of fluids. I drink a lot of water anyway but I do find that hot tea, (some of my favs are Organic Throat Coat, Gypsy Cold Care, Echinacea Plus and Peppermint) These come from two great companies I trust, which is Traditional Medicinals and Full Circle. I would suggest these teas for sustaining good vocal and body health. All natural and so tasty! As my Momma says, "It's good for what ails ya"!
Strenuous use of your voice during an episode of acute laryngitis can damage your vocal cords so we need to be careful when using our voices when we get sick like this. My practice is "Sing smarter so you can sing longer".
So we covered "What is laryngitis?" Now let's move on to the "What causes laryngitis?"
In most cases, laryngitis is temporary and improve after the underlying cause gets better.
Causes of acute laryngitis include:
Viral infections similar to those that cause a cold
Vocal strain, caused by yelling or overusing your voice
This is Laryngitis that lasts longer than three weeks. This type of laryngitis is generally caused by exposure to irritants over time.
Chronic laryngitis can cause vocal cord strain and injuries or growths on the vocal cords (polyps or nodules).
These injuries can be caused by:
Inhaled irritants, such as chemical fumes, allergens or smoke
Acid reflux also called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Excessive alcohol use
Habitual overuse of your voice (such as with singers, public speakers, actors)
Now that you know what can cause laryngitis we can somewhat help to prevent it from happening or reoccurring.
To prevent dryness or irritation to your vocal cords:
Don't smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke. Smoke dries your throat and irritates your vocal cords. (Bad choice anyway!)
Limit alcohol and caffeine. These cause you to lose total body water. (I love coffee and decaf for me works just as well)
Drink plenty of water. Fluids help keep the mucus in your throat thin and easy to clear. (I drink an abundance of water every day. It is the best for your body and overall health)
Avoid eating spicy foods. Spicy foods can cause stomach acid to move into the throat or esophagus, causing heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). (For me, I take an acid reducer every night before bedtime.)
Include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet. These foods contain vitamins A, E, and C, and help keep the mucous membranes that line the throat healthy. (Diet is so vital to vocal health. You need to know what to eat and what to stay away from as a vocalist. Some foods can cause more problems so do your research and see what works best for you!)
Avoid clearing your throat. (Oh boy! I do this a lot!) This can do more harm than good because it causes an abnormal vibration of your vocal cords and can increase swelling. Clearing your throat also causes your throat to secrete more mucus and feel more irritated, making you want to clear your throat again. (Drink water to help flush the extra mucus off of your vocal chords if possible)
Avoid upper respiratory infections. Wash your hands often, and avoid contact with people who have upper respiratory infections such as colds. ( Yeah this is a must in our profession! We come in contact with so many people who want to shake our hands, pay us in cash or credit cards that we have to handle, or who has a cold in general but still want a moment of your time. So disinfecting as much as you can throughout your day is a good way to help prevent yourself from getting sick.)
On a side note: For me personally, I have gotten laryngitis throughout my 26-year career. When I first had my 'bout' with it, I felt so distraught and worried. I felt like I was letting my band members down. Yeah, it played with my head and my emotions. I thought I would never get over laryngitis sometimes. Mine would sometimes last for a month and for me, not being able to do what I know I was capable of or contributing to the band was a tough thing to swallow. No pun intended! But over my career and I have learned to take it in stride. Things happen. We know we are gonna get sick eventually and when it does, we can't let it get inside our heads.
As a professional vocalist, we should have a solid foundation on how to sing correctly. How to do the right things to get through those tough vocal times whether it's having laryngitis or just a common head cold. After all, we do this for a living and are professionals in our field. So I say to you, rely on your knowledge and the solid foundation that you have taken time and effort to hone your craft. Sing smart and always protect your voice. Another saying that I like and live by is "Live to sing another day" which simply means if your voice is not up to par this time, there will be next time and don't worry about it! No matter if you've been asked to sing a featured song and you know there is no way you can... it's okay to say no. Your fans will understand and so will your bandmates. I can say this about the guys that surround me today. They never pressure me to sing something I'm featured on when I'm sick. They always have my back on everything we do and they also know what it's like to be sick and can't do the job they know they can do. So what do we do? We work around those who are having vocal trouble, sickness etc. It's adapting to what the circumstances are and still getting the job done! I am so proud of these guys and how they step up for one another when we need it.
Trust me when I say this... I've been in bands that would come to me and say we gotta have you sing this song tonight! No matter if the voice was there or not. Why? What would be so important to make or pressure someone into doing that when they clearly can't and potentially injure their voice. A merch sale? The big song of the night for them? Here's one of my shake your head favs, the old school mentality? (Sing through it and it will be alright) ehm... NOT!
So I said all that to say this... when your sick or another one of your bandmates is having vocal problems, do the right thing and sing smarter. Work around them so that they can "live to sing another day!" Most of all... don't worry about it because you will get better and back to 100%!
I hope this blog was helpful and informative to you. From a mental aspect to the facts, take this and use it to help you if and when you find yourself in this situation.
Here's my wife Tabitha showing you a little behind the scenes vid of how she helps me when I get laryngitis. Click here for vid link.
If you have any helpful remedies that work for you, we want to hear about them! Leave them in the comments below.
And on that note...
If you want to know what I specifically use and the regime I follow to help battle Laryngitis, click the link below and you will get it for FREE!