December is a wonderful time. Beautiful snow, getting ready for the holidays, wrapping up schoolwork and finals, and spending time with family and friends are just a few of the things I look forward to every year. However, this seems to be the time of year when colds run rampant. After many years of dealing with winter illness, as well as a decent amount of research, I've come up with a few tricks to stay healthy during the winter months.
First, a few disclaimers:
There are a few things that can help you avoid a cold altogether. Saline sprays and nasal flushing (such as with a Neti-Pot) have been shown to reduce the chances of upper respiratory infections. I use a pressurized nasal spray every morning and evening for this reason. Washing your hands is also key, as well as not touching your face or mouth after touching other objects. College campuses can be breeding grounds for germs, and I am especially warry of the pianos in practice rooms. Because of this, I keep a bottle of hand sanitizer on hand during my practice sessions. As always, getting enough sleep and water is essential to your overall health.
Sometimes, you just can't avoid getting a cold. Here are a few tips to help you recover as quickly as possible.
1. Take only what medications you need
Some medications are labeled as "cold and flu". These medications contain many different medications all in one. However, be careful with these. As a singer, it is best to take as little medication as possible and only take medications that treat your specific symptoms. Medications can be extremely drying, so taking too many won't help you feel better. I make a list of my specific symptoms before going to the store to buy medications. That way, I will be sure to only buy what I need rather than be tempted to buy a "treat-all" pill.
2. Treating pain
Many singers, myself included, have wondered which pain relievers we can take safely while singing. The problem with certain pain relieves is that they can leave you susceptible to vocal chord bleeding and hemorrhages due to the ways they interact with the clotting mechanism. Through the research I have done, aspirin and ibuprofen (brand name: Motrin) are not recommended to singers. Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) does not interfere with the clotting mechanism and is therefore recommended to singers as a pain relief method. One word of caution: pain when singing is an indication that something is wrong. The best course of action if you feel pain when you sing is to stop singing. Otherwise, you could do serious damage to you vocal folds. Taking a pain reliever so that you can get through a day of singing may not be the best idea. If you absolutely must sing, then you must. However, if you can cancel gigs, sit out in class, or reschedule events, it is better to do that and allow yourself to heal rather than use a pain reliever to continue singing.
3. Non-medicinal remedies
We all get many recommendations from other singers about how to deal with colds naturally. Some remedies are more effective than others. Here is some of the most common advice I've received and its effectiveness.
I hope that these tips are useful to you. Wishing you all a wonderful, healthy holiday season!