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How to stop nightmare hay fever affecting your voice performance

Happy days, it’s once again #HayfeverSeason! Oh my word – allergies are the worst. If you have nightmare hay fever and it’s affecting your voice performance for your podcast or voiceover, you have my sympathy…and now my tips on what to do! The day is looking up. 

Whether it’s sinus congestion, allergic rhinitis, dry throat, scratchiness in the voice, early onset vocal fatigue, laryngitis, even a runny nose.. the list of ways that hayfever affects your voice could honestly go on. Darn you, effective immune system.  When your body reacts to the pollen it produces chemicals such as histamines to help, but this leads to inflammation and irritation which all too often, impacts the vocal mechanism. 

Now look, I am not your doctor and I don’t know your specific symptoms or any medication you’re currently on, so always go to your doctor before you change anything in your medical routine. 

Speaking of doctors…

Step one… Make sure your doctor knows the importance of your voice.

If you do work with the medical professionals to manage your hayfever symptoms make sure that your doctor knows how important your voice is. That may seem really simple, but you have to make sure that they know if there’s anything in what’s prescribed that’s gonna have an effect on your voice, i.e. hydration or irritation..

That’s a key piece of information and they should be able to tailor your care around that.

Step two… up your systemic hydration.

Most allergy related ‘stuff’ leads to some sort of mucus thickening and/or drying, so overall systemic hydration from fluid intake is key. Whether you’re feeling phlegmy in the throat area, having saliva issues, or a running nose… the mucus needs thinning out and this takes hydration, surprise surprise!

I do have a whole podcast episode on hydration if you need some help there. So, be honest with yourself, how much are you really drinking? Can you drink some more? Some allergy medicines do dry things up as well, so you’ll need to be counteracting that with extra fluids anyway.

Step three… explore topical hydration.

Get yourself a nebuliser (use the code NRVOICE10 for a wee discount – I have this one and it’s great). You use this with a saline solution, which will be more effective than traditional voice steaming. It hydrates the vocal folds from the outside in because it’s absorbed at a cellular level.

I’m also a huge fan of a saline nasal spray, which is readily available at most chemists. When I wake up in the morning and my nose feels a bit dry inside, then a saline nasal spray is really useful. Some folks also love what’s called a Neti Pot, which is basically a way of clearing the sinuses. I think the official word is irrigation but I’ve always called it a nasal douche. Just be careful to only do that once a day, because if you do have an infection then you don’t want to clear any goodness fighting the good fight for you inside.

Step four… swap out the lozenge.

Change your ancient remedy voice lozenges for a glycerin pastel to soothe more effectively. Avoid anything that has menthol again, which as I said before can drying. Be wary, too, of anything with pain killing properties. You’ll numb the area and not notice any pushing or overuse which can lead to damage. 

Step five is just to… live well!

Generally people can be more susceptible to respiratory tract infections, colds, all that kind of stuff when they’re not taking great care of themselves. If you suffer from hayfever you need to be eating lots of good food, fresh fruit and veg (which will also help your hydration) and resting! Look after yourself.

Step six, factor in more rests.

If you do find your voice is getting tired a little earlier, try and factor in a few more vocal naps or little breaks in your speaking and employ some vocal resets during the day too. Whilst you’re resting try a little bit of tongue release, some gentle vocal exercises, nothing too strenuous. Perhaps a little bit of jaw release to release any tensions which are building up. Vocal work may be more effortful for you right now, working through those hayfever symptoms, so rest regularly.

Step seven, try swallowing more.

Swap throat clearing and coughing for swallowing. Try not to get into a habitual throat clearing by coughing, instead try swallowing instead. Anytime you feel that you need to have a little throat clear, just stop, and swallow. This will help get a little bit more mucus flowing down and help you inhibit that desire to cough.

There are lots of holistic suggestions out there for hayfever, such as local honey is supposed to be really good at helping you build up a natural immunity to the particular pollen in your area. Avoiding food foods with histamine in them as well, like some wines.

So, the main takeaways to stop nightmare hay fever affecting your voice performance… firstly, be honest with your doctor. Tell them you need your voice and hopefully they can tailor your prescriptions to support that. Hydration, both systemic and topical. Keep your lozenges basic, don’t go for any fancy stuff with painkillers and all this nonsense. Take breaks if you’re getting tired and to get things cleared in the morning, replace your throat clear/cough with a nice swallow.

Hang in there, good luck, it will end!

*sneezes her way to the kettle for a hot drink

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