Being a Singer With Allergies

Singer_Allergies_PitStop.jpgWhether you’re a singer or not, getting control over the allergen triggers in your environment is crucial and beneficial to your overall lifestyle. 

As if chasing the limelight wasn’t hard enough, in walks real life. Part of real life includes so many things that we weren’t expecting to join the scene and then we’re forced to deal with them, sometimes without a clue on how to actually control them. If you’re a person who is prone to allergies, then you know how unfortunate it is to be so very super sensitive to the world around you. 

It’s very important to first pay attention to the effects of your environment on an hour to hour basis. For example, if you find yourself awakening in the middle of the night, consider what your bedding material consists of or what you ate for dinner. Maybe it was those peanuts or maybe it was your polyester or acrylic sheets, which is a known trigger for asthmatics and those prone to allergies. 

The main issue in being a vocalist is the fact that your body is so interwoven with your instrument. It is solely your instrument. There are no external elements that can attempt to carry the weight of the tone. If a guitarist is sick, it’s a little easier to hide. Clearly their playing may not be so quick and “on point”, yet it wouldn't be as blatantly obvious as if it was a singer, who wears their instrument on their sleeve, for all to see each temporary defect.  Prominent vocal coach Susan Anders states ”The mucous membrane that surrounds the vocal cords can get irritated from incorrect singing, but also from numerous environmental factors. The optimum state of the vocal cords is warm and moist. Dried out vocal cords cause notes to crack, while too much mucus around the cords makes it hard for them to meet and create a tone. Then you might strain to produce a sound, causing more irritation, then more mucus, and the vicious cycle continues.”

If you’re a professional singer, it may do you well to find an appointment for an allergen test. This will help mark what you react to - despite the fact that it may not detect everything so tread lightly, especially around performance time. We would suggest attempting to maintain a consistent environment, food intake, daily schedule around tours and shows, albeit it typically impossible if you’re traveling - you can still begin to learn what works and doesn’t work for you. 

Ms. Anders also states “One thing we are pretty sure about: Sinuses do NOT play a significant role in singing. Yes, they resonate (along with the rest of the skull), but their audible contribution to vocal resonance is negligible.”If you have an allergy attack or a cold (the symptoms are so similar you can't always tell which it is), keep taking Zicam and up your fluid intake. The big decision is whether to sing or not. Some voice teachers think that a well-trained singer should be able to sing through almost any cold, but I don't agree. If the cold or allergy is situated in your nose it's usually okay to sing. But if it's lodged in or near your vocal cords you need to be more careful since you'll be singing with irritated cords. Unless you have a performance I'd skip singing for a day or two. Here are two things that can help soothe and heal bad sore throats and colds: elderberry, which comes in extract and lozenges (I use both), and Four Thieves: the latter is an essential oil blend that also comes in a spray or lozenges for vocalists, they are expensive but worth it.”

Finding the way to steer your health and your body’s response to the way you treat it is a day to day, lifelong process. You must take it easy and not overwhelm yourself with too many attempts at perfection. Just take it slow and figure out how to reach as often of a homeostasis as possible. Everyone is unique and will have varying degrees of sensitivity to their food intake, climate and general health upkeep. When you begin to uncover what works for you, you’ll learn what to do and what not to do. This will allow you to be able to count on your vocal cords just a little bit more. Still, you must continue to prepare for the unexpected and be preventative in the care for your body and its voice.