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Take care of your voice in six easy steps

You use your voice every day: whether it's talking to your family, giving a work presentation or singing in the shower, you rely on your voice. Here are some tips and tricks to keep your "instrument" in top working order.

  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 your voice and, eventually, lead to vocal nodules which can 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 your 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 a vocal performance, here are some ways 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.
  • Minimize coughing. Productive coughs that bring up nasty phlegm are important for preventing pneumonia. Using an expectorant can help make each cough count while limiting how often you need to cough. Try honey, tea or broth to help calm a throat tickle.
  • Avoid using over-the-counter throat numbing sprays. They may make you feel better now, but could mask voice damage and end up taking 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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