Five Simple Ways to Care for Your Voice in Winter

Winter’s cold, changing weather and dry indoor climates can put a lot of stress on your body, especially the respiratory system and your voice.  Here are five easy ways to care for your voice this winter:

Hard Candy
Hard Candy.
Photo: Adam Zivner
  • Drink lots of fluid, especially water
  • Use a humidifier
  • Stay away from caffeine and alcohol if you have to speak, as they dehydrate
  • Avoid milk products and chocolate, as they can lead to mucous congestion
  • Suck on hard candy for added moisture

Everyone’s system is different, so know how you react to different foods and environmental conditions.

How do you protect your voice in the winter?  Please feel free to share any tips or hints below.

Throw Away That Popsicle!

Popsicle BreakA glass of ice water, a slice of chilled watermelon, a grape juice popsicle.  Sounds great in hot weather, doesn’t it?

If you’re a public speaker or a singer like I am, beware.  These ice cold  refreshers triggered some of the nastiest asthma  and allergy attacks I’ve had,  leading to extensive mucous in my throat, constant attempts at  throat clearing, and finally triggering irritative laryngitis or reflux laryngitis (when gastric acid backs up into the larynx, pharynx, and esophagus).

I admit it: I may be hyper-sensitive.  Anything mucous-producing, from alcohol to milk products, chocolate, and even red meat, can set off an allergic attack.

Years ago, when I was doing some professional singing, I went to a noted otolaryngologist who was THE go-to doctor for opera and theater legends, from pop singers to opera divas. His first piece of advice: avoid red wine, milk products and chocolate. My own voicePopsicle, Lime, Cold.  Yum. teachers were also telling me to avoid very hot or very cold drinks, instead sticking to room temperature or warm beverages.

Only years later, after researching and consulting doctors, did I learn that cold can trigger an allergic reaction leading to reflux, and, just as cold weather can trigger an asthma attack, so can drinking or eating something cold.  In short, it’s a shock to your vocal chords.

Now that I know the culprit, I’m careful about assaulting my throat with very cold foods or beverages.  And when symptoms flare, I head for my asthma inhaler and an antihistimine-decongestant.  No more popsicles for me!

Photos courtesy of Kristin Resurreccion and Sergio Feria via Flickr.

Saving your throat

At a recent performance of “A Little Night Music” on Broadway, one of the leads, Catherine Zeta-Jones, had to cancel due to a bad throat.    I found that interesting, as I’ve worked with actors and noticed – especially nowadays with Broadway performers being amplified – that many actors don’t support their voices.  Consequently, they may develop laryngitis or a raw throat and have to cancel a performance.

I often emphasize the importance of correct breathing as a key to vocal stamina and to help protect your voice and throat.  Here are other hints that will help  before a presentation.

  • Make sure you have plenty of rest.  Speaking, like acting, singing or dancing, is physical, and you need energy to support your voice.
  • Keep your throat moist and  “well oiled,” especially in air-conditioned rooms and in dry, winter air.   Avoid alcohol, and drink plenty of water.  Hard, sucking candies are also good.
  • Be sure you are breathing from your diaphragm or belly, thus supporting your voice.
  • At all costs, avoid yelling, which is very hard on your vocal cords.