Help! How can I sing with allergies?!
Hi, it’s Norwood from Total Vocal Experience, and today I wanna talk about something that drives me CRAZY and gets in the way of my singing: seasonal allergies.
Oh allergies. One of a singers worst enemies! Trying to sing with an itchy sore throat, runny nose, and a head full of mucus is no easy task, especially in Atlanta where I am right now. It doesn’t snow much here, but this time of year everything (from cars to mailboxes and front porches) is covered in a disgusting layer of yellow pollen. It’s truly gross, and it’s enough to make us allergy-sufferers positively miserable!
Well I’m here to help save the day with a few tips (including some natural, drug-free solutions) to help keep those allergies at bay and your voice in tip-top shape!
First, an obvious solution: allergy medicine.
If you haven’t tried them already, over-the-counter meds may be worth a try. I’ve used Claritin before for my allergies with reasonable success. Be proactive: if possible, start taking your allergy medicine a few weeks before allergy season begins (I start March 1st) - this will allow the medicine to build up in your system, and you won’t be caught off-guard when the pollen starts to accumulate!
Just make sure you’re drinking plenty of water if you’re taking allergy medicine as they can over-dry your sinuses if you’re not careful!
MONEY SAVING TIP: Buy generic! I found a generic form of Claritin for a fraction of the cost, and it works just as well.
Now, on to some natural and not-so-obvious allergy remedies!
One of my favorite, all natural, drug-free allergy remedies is something that has been around for centuries: a neti pot.
“A neti what?!"
Neti pot! Also known as "nasal irrigation” or a “saline rinse", using a neti pot basically washes out your nasal passages and sinus cavities with water. This flushes out allergens, environmental irritants, and excess mucus. It also helps keep your sinuses moisturized.
So how do you do it? Well first, get your hands on a neti pot! This is fairly easy - most drugstores and health food stores carry neti pots these days, and you can find them online as well. They come in different shapes, colors, and materials to choose from. I personally use a lightweight plastic pot that is travel-friendly.
Once you’ve got your pot, fill it with warm purified water, stir in a little salt, and you’re ready to go!
Position your head over a sink and place the tip of the neti pot in one nostril, creating a seal. Slowly tilt your head to the side and slightly forward so the water pours into your nostril. After a few seconds, the water should fill up your sinuses and begin draining out the other nostril. Continue until you’ve used about half the pot, then reset and use the rest on the other nostril.
Finish with a few gentle blows into a tissue, and voila! Your sinuses are cleansed of allergens, and you can breathe deep and sing again!
I recommend using a neti pot in the morning and evening to help combat allergy symptoms.
A few vital tips to keep in mind while using your neti pot:
- Use warm, purified water. Don’t use tap water as it can contain metal deposits, bacteria, or chlorine that can irritate your sinuses - so filtered or distilled is key. Make sure it’s warm, but not hot (don’t want to scald the inside of your nose). I usually pour filtered water into a mug and microwave it for a few seconds - just long enough to take the chill out. It should feel slightly warm to the touch.
- ALWAYS USE NETI SALT! Always use the recommended amount of salt in your neti pot. Without it, the water will sting like crazy and remind you of the uncomfortable days of learning to swim as a kid. So always mix in a little sea salt with the water - a good rule of thumb: when it doubt, add a little more salt. It usually makes the experience more pleasant :)
- Do it over the sink. Using a neti pot is a little messy - the water goes in one nostril and drains out the other, so do this over a sink!
- Breath through your mouth! This should be pretty self explanatory ;)
- Practice makes perfect. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get the water to drain at first - it takes a little practice to find the perfect head position. Try different angles. I’ve found tilting my head forward a bit (forehead towards the mirror) while tilting to the side helps for me. Keep trying until you find what works for you!
Okay, so maybe you’re thinking the neti pot might be a little much for you? No worries, I’ve got some other remedies to try!
Something I’ve recently experimented with for my allergies is essential oils. I use Young Living essential oils, but any high-quality brand of oils should help.
For allergies, I’ve been using 3 easy-to-find, affordable oils: lemon, lavender, and peppermint.
I take 1 or 2 drops of each in the palm of my hand, rub my hands together and apply the oils to my neck and temples (being careful not to get them in my eyes). I would recommend you spot test each oil on your skin to make sure you don’t experience any sensitivity, and you can always add a few drops of a “carrier oil” such as coconut oil or olive oil to dilute the essential oils for more sensitive skin.
Apply this mixture several times a day to help alleviate allergy symptoms - I definitely notice a difference when I do this! Some sources say you can also take these oils internally to help fight allergies: I have not tried this, and I would urge you to speak with your doctor or health practitioner before you try ingesting oils, and make sure the oils are of ingestible quality.
You can also try clearing up the “gunk” in your head with steam. You can either take a hot shower, or you can steam your voice! I use a personal steam inhaler that I got at a pharmacy for this purpose.
Fill the bottom with a little water, turn it on, and breathe deeply. The steam will help thin out excess mucus and soothe sore throats, making it easier for you to sing!
Herbal tea is another great remedy for helping clear up the “gunk”.
My favorite is “Throat Coat” by Traditional Medicinals - it has a mild, sweet taste and when paired with honey and a little lemon it REALLY helps sooth your throat and thin out mucous. I drink this when I’m in the studio or before a big show, even when it’s not allergy season!
And last (but certainly not least): WARMING UP YOUR VOICE!
You would be amazed how often sinus “gunk” and post-nasal drip can be minimized through proper vocal warm ups. Working through the full range of your voice (particularly your head voice or falsetto) will help cut through congestion and start to get things moving!
So break out your Total Vocal Experience Warm Ups MP3, and get to warming up those pipes!
Don’t have the Total Vocal Experience Warm Ups?! Get them for FREE along with a FREE video module at TotalVocalExperience.com and start improving your voice TODAY!
There you have it! Those are my best tips for helping combat allergies and get your voice back in tip-top shape.
Leave a comment letting me know if any of these worked for you, and if you have a remedy of your own to share!
And remember, if you’re looking to improve your singing or public speaking voice, try out Total Vocal Experience for FREE today! You’ve got nothing to lose - take your voice to the NEXT LEVEL!