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Take care of your voice in six easy steps

We use our voices every day: whether it is communicating with family, giving presentations at work, or even singing in a choir or in the shower. We rely heavily on the voice and, likely, with little thought about how to keep it healthy. Here are some tips and tricks to keep your instrument in top working order for your upcoming concert or work presentation:

  1. Stay well hydrated. This is good advice for life in general, but is particularly important for voice function.
  2. Use your "inside voice." Screaming, shouting and yelling can damage the voice and, eventually, lead to vocal nodules, which cause chronic hoarseness. Be particularly mindful of this when cheering on your favorite sport teams or athletes.
  3. Protect your voice from our frigid Minnesota winters. When the temperatures go down, bundle up your neck and face with bulky scarves and breathe through your nose to help warm the air before it hits your vocal chords.
  4. Warm up before the performance. Get your voice moving over the vocal range you plan to use, hum a bit to warm up resonance chambers in your face, as well as say some tongue twisters to help get muscles in your tongue and jaw ready for good diction.
  5. Avoid temperature extremes in your beverage choices before a performance. Too cold can reverse any attempts at a vocal warm up and too hot can cause burns.
  6. Avoid alcohol and smoking for vocal health (and so much more). Tobacco and alcohol are main risk factors for throat cancers.

If you come down with a respiratory infection before stepping into the limelight, here are some pros and cons to help your instrument perform at its best:

  • When you're not feeling well, hydration of the vocal muscle is key. Increase you fluid intake, use a humidifier (especially at bedtime) and inhale steam generated from a sink or shower head.
  • Attempt to minimize unnecessary coughing. Productive coughs (coughs that bring up nasty phlegm) are important for preventing pneumonia, but using an expectorant can help make each cough count while limiting how often you need to cough. Try honey, tea, or broths to help calm a throat tickle.
  • Avoid using Chloraseptic numbing sprays. They may make you feel better now, but they could mask voice damage that takes much longer to heal.
  • If you have hoarseness that lasts longer than four weeks, talk to your provider. This may be a sign of other health problems.

These tips can help keep your fa-la-las or blah-blah-blahs sounding as lovely as possible.

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