Admittedly, we had an amazing September and October. November and December have turned, shall we say, fresher. We had some beautiful sunny days, warm temperatures and gorgeous warm rains for the garden. But it did not last. And so it shouldn't. The cold has set in, and as I type the cold and flu bugs are attacking all over the country! I'm writing this for you, so you are armed and ready with good quality information that WORKS!
Now, be prepared for some myth busting here. There is a lot of information and products flying around out there that promise a speedy, miracle recovery. I really care about your voice so I'm not going to let you do or use anything that either doesn't work or causes more damage.
Here we go.
Don't Be A Sucker
I'm starting with this one as it's the most common issue I deal with when coaching. You really should not be using any kind of medical lozenge to soothe your throat or relieve pain. Most of the common over the counter lozenges contain menthol & eucalyptus, which while tasting delicious actually cause more drying of the vocal cords. Anything that numbs or 'soothes' pain will only create the illusion that you're not as sick as you really are, causing you to use your voice more, resulting in more damage. The most common lozenges I would avoid are Tunes, Soothers, Lockets, Strepsils, Vocal Zones or anything similar. Sucking on a sweet will do very little to remedy anything, but if you really want something for slight relief go for propolis, liquorice or a herb based lozenge such as Ricola Original available from any good health food store. Please do not be tempted by these attractive and well advertised tricks. They do not work. Which brings me on to...
You've Heard It All Before
I can not write a Blog on this subject without mentioning the necessity of water. You must slowly sip water throughout the entire day when you come down with the flu/cold. The body requires it for flushing and hydration. Water has little immediate effect on the voice however because it takes 4 hours for water to reach your vocal cords. Start as soon as you wake up with a nice big mug of freshly boiled water. The heat will break up any mucus that has formed and hardened over night. Continue to sip freshly filtered water through out the day - I prefer boiled water cooled down when I am sick.
The single best thing you can do for your voice when you are ill is steaming. This is known as topical application and results in immediate hydration of the vocal cords and larynx. The tiny beads of steam sit straight on to the tissue and boost you with instant hydration. I use a Dr Nelsons Inhaler, the best on the market in my opinion, but a good old fashioned bowl of water and a towel will suffice. Let your freshly boiled water cool down first.
Mindful Voice Use
Vocal rest is hugely underestimated in the process of looking after yourself during a bout of cold or flu. If at all possible you should have as much vocal rest as you can. This means making no sound with your voice. If you are a teacher or somebody who uses your voice constantly in your job then you are going to have to be more mindful about how you use it. It is a common misconception that if you speak quietly or whisper you will save your voice. This is not entirely true. Whispering passes more air over your vocal folds which results in drying out. Speaking quietly requires a degree of muscularity in the voice which, if not trained and strengthened well enough, can be tiring. If you are somebody who simply must use your voice in your job then I recommend speaking with a full, rounded tone aiming for a sound that is as clean, clear and as free of breathiness as possible. This may require you to do a vocal warm up before you start work to get things going. Basically you want to aim for as good contact between your vocal cords as possible.
A good way to keep your voice healthy during illness is to do gentle warm ups and cool downs through out the day. Gentle but focussed 'E' vowels starting with a glottal are magic for your voice in times of stress. The 'E' vowel with a glottal brings the cords together at their optimum, and sliding around through your range acts as a gentle massage for them. You could also use a gentle fricative sound to bring the cords together, further soothing them. Experiment with Vvv, Sssh and Zzzz sounds. Fricatives are brilliant for encouraging contact between your vocal cords and training you not to use too much breath when you speak and sing.
I've always found it strange that when I get the flu my appetite goes completely out of the window. The desire to eat anything disappears. I find this strange because it happens at a time when the body is crying out to be nourished back to health. I've decided it's a matter for the mind.
YOU MUST CONTINUE TO EAT HEALTHY, NOURISHING, NUTRIENT RICH FOOD!
Make sure you eat a full, healthy and nutritious breakfast. Try to avoid too much caffeine, although I am a firm believer that a strong cup of tea can solve many things! I would opt for herbal teas and cleansing liquids. Try to avoid the temptation to lay in bed all day not eating and not drinking anything. Eat a hearty and healthy lunch, and a warming dinner.
Rather than reaching for pharmacy drugs to mask the effects of your illness grab yourself this concoction of magic miracle supplements. Any drug that claims to relieve you from the symptoms of cold and flu is not going to do your system any good. These kinds of drugs have an impact on your liver and only get in the way of your body doing the amazing thing it's designed to do; heal you. I only use natural remedies and supplements and I source mine from Neals Yard or Pure Bio. These two companies create extremely high grade, natural and organic products that contain no fillers or other chemicals. Their ingredients are also never produced from synthetic materials. The following is a list of immune boosting and anti-viral supplements. I have had amazing results using these.
> L-Lysine: 2000mg 3 times a day
> Vitamin C: take 2000mg in the morning and 2000mg before bed
> Olive Leaf Extract: One or two capsules with lunch
> Lemon Balm Tincture: take with water 3 times a day
It may feel like you are taking a lot of stuff, especially if you are taking 500mg tablets rather than 1000mg. It's all good however, and your body needs it, so go with it. I keep a good stock of everything in my cupboard ready to start as soon as anything hits me.
Old Wives Tale?
Honey & lemon has been used for centuries as a remedy for all types of ailments. Honey is know for being nutrient rich and there is no denying that it soothes and comforts. Note, the darker the honey the more nutritious it will be. It contains iron, copper, manganese, silica chlorine, calcium, potassium, sodium, phosphorous, aluminium and magnesium. Great stuff! Please spend a bit more money tho and opt for raw, unrefined products. Lemon is hugely antibacterial and packed full of vitamin C. I can't think of a reason why you wouldn't want to make this delicious concoction. Research published by Pediatrics Digest concluded that citrus and honey improved the cough symptoms during an upper respiratory infection, leading to a better chance at sleep. As with anything, use this medicinal deliciousness in moderation. Too much citrus can irritate the throat, so just be mindful of how much and how often you reach for your yellow friend. Too much honey will take your insulin through the roof. A small teaspoon of honey and a squeeze of lemon will do the trick. ENJOY!
Catching the odd cold and flu bug can not be avoided most winters... but with these few tips you should make a speedier and healthier recovery. The most important thing is to know your body and know your voice... do NOT push things. Take time off. Say no. Be strong.
Lots of Love and good luck!