Thanks to a case of the flu (being cut short thanks to a flu shot and a prescription for Tamiflu), I had some nasty vocal problems over the weekend.
We all have (or should have) our favorite “go to” remedies for vocal problems.
Number one, of course, is vocal rest.
Just shut the fuck up.
Easier said than done, of course.
And if you have to talk, don’t whisper – it’s actually harder on the voice.
Besides vocal rest – getting as much sleep as you can, and keeping well hydrated (which of course, makes getting that sleep challenging because that fluid wants to come out eventually).
Keep your throat warm too.
If you have a steamer – use it – but be careful, you don’t want to scald anything.
Your vocal cords are happiest when warm and moist.
My go-to for vocal problems is hot pineapple juice.
Not only is it tasty (if your remedy works but it tastes like crap, you’re not going to want to use it), but the warmth is soothing, the citrus acid in it cuts through phlegm, and the thick sugary juice recoats the throat.
Next on the list – Throat Coat tea.
I finally tried it.
It is touted in the professional theater crowd as the best.
Made mostly of slippery elm bark, naturally sweet, and not bad tasting (the box threatens a licorice flavor – but it didn’t taste at all like licorice to me). The warmth is soothing and the slippery elm stuff coats the throat. I added sugar to help recoat the throat as well (although, I am now thinking honey is better for the coating quality).
Next on my list – any kind of herbal tea with honey (or sugar).
Stay away from regular tea – and coffee – basically anything with caffeine because caffeine is a diuretic and will dry you out.
Gargling with warm salt water.
Tried this backstage and it was a disaster – too much salt, totally stripped my throat and cords.
If you are going to do this (and it is often recommended by healthcare professionals), don’t use too much salt, don’t make it too hot – and gargle gently. The salt will strip the phlegm but then you have nothing to recoat the inflamed tissues.
Again, the trick is to achieve warmth and moistness, while removing phlegm and reducing irritability.
If you are in real trouble – a steroid shot is a God (that I don’t believe in) send. But most non-ENT doctors won’t even consider it; and ENT doctors are going to be reluctant. Serious stuff, for serious problems. However, you may be able to talk your doctor into oral steroids (Prednisone) which help a lot too – but take a little longer to build up in your system enough to work.
Another thing – don’t be shy about doing what you have to. Sucking on a piece of candy can really help – so last Sunday, my character became the crinkly candy wrapper woman. I needed to have something in my mouth that would soothe my throat, and I just made it a bit and part of my character.
Also, let the mic do the heavy lifting. That’s what it is there for. Warn your sound people and let them help you.
Recommendations from others:
Something called XL3 (OTC)
Slippery elm lozenges
Honey and cayenne with ginger tea (soothes and numbs)
Potato chips (? Never heard of that before ?)
Gargle with 1/2 tsp each of honey, salt and baking soda, in 6-8 oz of very warm water. Gently gargle, mainly let it sit on the back of your throat, till finished.
Hot tea, honey, lemon and a small shot of Brandy. It should clear you for the show, but it’ll come back, and it might be worse. (This is probably because alcohol can dry your throat, but it also numbs it to the extent you can’t tell you are doing more damage.)
Whiskey. (Again, you’re not going to be able to tell what additional damage you may be doing.)
One tip I would never have thought of – be kind to yourself, don’t beat yourself up because stress is a killer! (Great advice!)
Like everything else, we are all individuals and what works for one person, doesn’t work for another. Find out what works for you!