By Catherine Franz
Coaches rely heavily on their voice to service clients.
If you also give teleclasses or workshops, voice
maintenance needs to be one of their top self-care
priorities. This information also applies to singers,
speakers, or sales professionals.
During flu and cold season, vocal cords become highly
sensitized and need as much care as a valuable
instrument. Think of your voice, and we should, as an
expensive, rare violin. If you were going to play the
violin the next day -- same relation as having a
speaking engagement or a full day of coaching -- you
wouldn't expose that violin to a night in a smoke
filled room, lay cigars or pour alcohol all over it and
expect it not to suffer from the abuse the next day.
Antibiotics don't help viral infections or laryngitis
-- a common result from a viral infection caused from a
cold or flu. Recently, I suffered got the flu and
suffered from a severe case of laryngitis. I had to
cancel a teleclass, lose a week of work, and almost a
paid speaking engagement. The more I self-treated
through media knowledge or recommendations, the worse
the laryngitis got.
It took over 20 days before I improved and then two
weeks later, it returned. After great frustration, I
finally visited my ear, nose, and throat specialist,
only to learn that everything I was trying was actually
contributing the extended suffering. Let me pass along
some of my learning so you don't need to go through
this. Like me, some of it will surprise you.
Food and Beverages
Warm or hot beverages work best. Cold beverages with
ice produces the voice center to spasm generating
coughing that results in laryngitis. Stick to drinking
room temperature water.
Black Currant Pastilles, which are glycerin-containing
lozenges for adults, keeps the throat moist. Pastilles
are perfect to take before, during, and after flying or
traveling from one temperature extreme to another, say
New York to Florida in winter. It is good to have
these on hand since they are difficult to find. Many
professional singers use Black Currant Pastilles 24
hours before their performance.
Avoid anything with mint or menthol.
Throat Coat? Tea, designed specifically for voice
professionals, is rated higher than Pastilles. The tea
contains licorice root, which is widely used to enhance
throat and upper respiratory tract health. Any
beverage that affects your stomachs acid level, like
caffeine, will also affect your vocal cords. Caffeine
is a mild diuretic and dries the throat and vocal
cords. Coffee, including decaf, due to its natural
oils causes acidic results that cause vocal damage.
This includes chocolate. If you suffer from acid
reflux disease, you need to take extra care of your
voice since it cause permanent damage. Sodas also
cause acid reflux and damages vocal cords.
With a cold or flu, we usually drink orange juice.
This acidic beverage actually lengthens laryngitis. So
does the amount of lemon you use in water. A tiny bit
of lemon in warm water with a small amount of honey is
a great elixir that actually smoothes the vocal cords.
Dairy increases throat mucus for some people. If after
you drink milk, you feel even a little mucus in your
throat, you probably have a very mild milk allergy.
This will affect your vocal health and can length
laryngitis. Nuts have the same allergy affect.
Common Causes of Voice Strain
It?s common knowledge that shouting, screaming, and
excessive talking strains voice cords. But, did you
know that whispering, coughing, loud sneezing, crying,
laughing, and throat clearing could do the same damage?
Emotional or environmental stress also causes voice
strain. Especially major changes like separation/
divorce, new job, kids going off to college, grieving,
not enough sleep, moving, and even hormonal changes in
adolescents or maturing adults. If you add any of
these with the need for a quality voice, you will need
to take extra care in order not to bruise or damage
your throat center or vocal cords.
When experiencing laryngitis, limit unnecessary
talking, and pause frequently to swallow and remoisten
your throat, even during speaking engagements.
Relaxation techniques, like yoga always help, yet
conscious aware of your posture and breathing during
speaking can save or further bruise voice projection
especially if your voice is weak from a cold.
One of my favorite exercises that I do every morning or
while driving to a speaking engagement is a vowel
review. Stretch your neck comfortable upwards and
recite the vowels -- a, e, i, o, u. Let your vowel
trail off after each one especially the "u." If
experiencing laryngitis avoid whispering. Whispering
actually stresses vocal cords reducing recovery
significantly. If you smoke or visit smoke-filled
rooms, triple your maintenance plan, smoke is very
If you lose your voice, you will require additional
rest time over a 4-7 day period. This means limiting
your voice to 15 minutes a day. Looking on the bright
side, listening skills will definitely improve. Keep
phone calls brief; avoid all non-speech voice use,
including throat clearing, coughing, and sneezing or
any odd sound effects. Snoring also doubles strain.
Even though they give brief relief, throat sprays and
medicated lozenges dry the throat and extend recovery.
If used for an emergency, you must follow with extreme
Herbs can also cause side effects. You will want to
discuss their use with your doctor or herb
practitioner. Herbs like barberry reduce inflammation
and infection caused from respiratory infections, but
can also cause an allergic reaction especially if
already using another remedy. Herbs like eucalyptus,
German chamomile, goldenrod, goldenseal, licorice,
marshmallow, peppermint, saw palmetto, or slippery elm
are remedies for vocal cord inflections. Adding garlic
and ginger to your foods also reduce cold symptoms
including sore throat and don't need professional
If your voice is vital to your income, you will want to
have an ear, nose, and throat physician familiar with
your medical history and working with singers. With an
ongoing relationship, it?s easier for them to provide
advice when out of the area.
Last year, while experiencing a mild case of
laryngitis, I saw my doctor before I left for a
speaking engagement but I didn't know to mentioned I
was traveling to a high elevation. By the time I
checked in at the hotel, I was in bad shape. An
emergency call and I was armed with new instructions.
The next morning I was fine. Did you know that most
taxi companies will pick up and deliver called-in
prescriptions usually at the same rate as a cab ride?
(c) Copyright 2005, Catherine Franz. All rights
About the author:
Catherine Franz, a eight-year Certified Professional
Coach, Graduate of Coach University, Mastery
University, editor of three ezines, columnist, author
of thousands of articles website:
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