Get Rid Of That Cold!!

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

You feel the irritating tickle in your throat, the slight pressure in your sinuses and you notice that funny taste in your mouth.  There’s no mistaking it. You are coming down with a cold. What’s worse, you’ve got a performance in three days.  Ready to do anything to save your show, you rush to the pharmacy. There you find rows and rows of sprays, lozenges and pills for every symptom imaginable.  The common cold is caused by over 100 different constantly mutating virus strains Which ones work? Which ones are good for singers? Which ones are bad for singers?  what singers should and shouldn’t take when dealing with the range-shrinking, tone-wrecking evils of the common cold.

DO – Embrace Your Mucus because there is nothing you can do to cure a cold which is something no singer likes to hear. But there is hope.  The one thing you can do is keep your mucus membranes warm and wet.  Because it will reduce irritation and help your body move the mucus out of your system. Keep in mind that your main goal is to get all that mucus out. Ah, mucus. What a lovely topic.  Did you know mucus is only gross when you are sick?

Normally, you don’t even notice what your body generates to remove germs and debris from your body. You and your mucus exist in perfect harmony. When you get a cold, however, that nasty stuff becomes dry, sticky and generally unpleasant.  Your best plan of attack is to keep that mucus as thin and watery as possible.  Some things, such as drinking lots of water, help to keep it thin, while other things dry it out, making it thick and sticky.

DON’T – Dry & Supress.  Despite the temporary relief provided by decongestants and antihistamines its best not to take these because of their drying effect.  Dried out mucus membranes not only hinder your ability to sound good when you sing, but singing when the mucosa lining is dry makes it more likely that you will further irritate the vocal folds.  The drying effect makes your mucus sticky and slows down the body’s ability to expel it. Drying out already inflamed mucus membranes hinders your ability to fight off a cold.

When the problem is due to allergic reactions or asthma, however, antihistamines are helpful but singers must use them with careful awareness of the drying effect.  Got a cough? Another no-no is a cough suppressant because that coughing (when it’s wet and phlegmy) is how you get mucus out (which helps you get better). So for the sake of your long-term health, you really don’t want to suppress a cough.  Suppressing a productive cough will only trap the virus in your lungs and risk infection.  Can’t sleep? If the cough keeps you up at night, try getting out of bed, making a hot cup of tea and be sure to inhale the steam as you sip it.A dry cough is another matter – it does not move mucus, and you should talk to your doctor if it persists (in this case, a cough suppressant may be desirable).

DO – Soothe Your Symptoms.  There isn’t anything that cures colds, but among the masses of products on the pharmacy shelf, there are a couple that can help.  Nasal spray is an example of a product that may help you feel better, as it is safe for singers to use.

If you check the ingredients, you’ll see the first is water. No problem there. Then it contains things like Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, which coats your irritated mucus membrane trapping virus particles.  It is slightly alkaline and has Phenethyl alcohol which is moderately virucidal and so reduces the chance of the virus attacking you with a second wave of awfulness.  Finally, it contains menthol, which makes the mucus membranes feel cooler, which your brain interprets as an open airway. Nasal spray is most useful if taken in the early stages of a cold.  While it is widely available in the UK, it is not sold int he U.S.A. You can order it online if you don’t mind paying a couple of dollars for shipping.

DO – Steam.  Any or all of the mucus membranes lining your airways become irritated and inflamed when you have a cold virus (your vocal folds are covered by this mucus membrane, which means the sound of your voice is usually affected too).  Inhaling steam immediately relieves this swelling. Regular steam inhalation is generally safer and more effective,than self-treating with over-the-counter remedies.  it is best to inhale steam at least twice a day to relieve an irritated voice.

The physical methods like steam are the most effective, and come without side effects.  All drugs have potential side effects.  An electric steamer is essentially a kettle with a long face mask. The advantage of these is that they make the best sort of steam – the water droplet is the ideal size.  If you don’t have one of these, you can settle for a bowl of boiling water and a towel over your head.

There are ultra-sonic steam generators on the market, but they come with a potential risk.  Since the water droplet produced in the vapor is smaller than that of steam and when inhaled right down into the chest a higher proportion of the vapor is absorbed by the lungs.  Overindulgence in ultrasonic vapor is not going to help the cold.

Do, Do, Do!  Are you coming down with a cold right now? Yes? Then your mission is to get that mucus out.  That’s right.  Go and blow your nose gently (one side at a time). Drink water to help keep that mucus thin and wet. Keep it moving by avoiding cough suppressants, decongestants and antihistamines. Pamper your mucus membranes with steam and the safe nasal sprays like First Defence to reduce the swelling and irritation.  Keep yourself warm (hot drinks are great for this) so your body can function as well as possible to rid itself of that nasty stuff that is holding your voice hostage.

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