Winter is a challenging time for vocalists. The weather outside is frightful—to borrow a phrase—and inside it is oppressively dry from the heat running. You’re more susceptible to catching a cold or the flu between socializing and traveling during the holidays. Not to mention, it can be one of the busiest times of the year for vocalists. If you want to maintain a healthy singing voice this winter, here are some health tips to follow:
1. Breathe Through Your Nose
Your voice box needs a moist environment. It relies on lubrication and mucus—keeping it hydrated starts with the nose. When you breathe in, your body filters the air, heats it up to your body temperature, and sends it to the back of the throat, near your voice box, clean and warm.
Breathe in through your nose instead of your mouth to help this process along and to protect and lubricate your vocal cords.
2. Stay Hydrated
Hydration is especially important during the colder months to help maintain flexibility in your voice. Dehydration makes your vocal folds less agile and much harder to work with. Did you know it can take 48-72 hours for your body to fully absorb water? So, pay careful attention to the days leading up to a performance or show.
3. Take Steamy Shower
Steam can be a huge comfort for your vocal cords during the dry season. You’re prone to having a dry mouth and bad sinus infections during the winter, so a healthy amount of moisture can do wonders. Drinking liquids only moisturizes your vocal system so much. To really reach your vocal cords though, you need to utilize steam. Try dipping a towel in boiling water, crank the heat in the shower, or buy a personal steamer. Not sure what to get the singer in your life for the holidays? Those personal steamers range from about $35-$160.
4. Tea Time
Warm liquids can help cut through any mucus buildup. But caffeine dehydrates you, so make non-caffeinated herbal or citrus fruit tea a priority instead. If you are a coffee drinker, consider having a glass of water per cup of coffee to help counteract the dehydration in your body. And if you have a sore throat, add a little honey to soothe it.
5. Warm-Up Properly
Consider adding a few minutes to your vocal warm-up routine during the winter. It takes your voice a little longer to adjust to the cold weather and get moving properly. You can also intentionally exercise your breathing muscles throughout the day. It has a positive effect on maintaining a healthy immune system.
6. Prepare Your Home
This may not be the most obvious advice, but your environment can affect your voice. Central heating and air conditioning aren’t great for your vocal cords, but there are a few things you can do to help. Clean your radiators and filters to get rid of dust and buildup that you don’t want to ingest. And add some water vapor to the air by using a no-heat humidifier or putting a bowl on top of the radiator.
7. Keep Your Immune System Happy
Over-the-counter decongestants and throat lozenges can be harmful, so don’t make them your go-to source when you feel sickness coming on. Excessive use of these medications can dry out your airway and increase the risk of infection. Instead, consider taking Vitamin C or a multivitamin every day to help boost your immune system.
Follow these cold-weather tips to help your singing voice perform at its best. Just remember: Don’t sing if it hurts. It may be obvious, but many singers schedule a handful of holiday gigs only to get sick. Make sure you listen to your body so you don’t cause more harm and so you recover as quickly as possible.