April showers may bring May flowers, but for a lot of people, they also bring seasonal allergies. With those beautiful spring flowers comes pollen, and it’s everywhere. The familiar yellowy/green film that coats everything outside, and drifts into your home when windows are open. For most people these spring allergens and the accompanying symptoms are, of course, a nuisance, but for singers they can be downright debilitating. Allergy symptoms may include nasal and/or upper respiratory congestion, excess mucus, coughing, sneezing and the like. All of which can, to greater or lesser degree affect your singing.
Many people who suffer from seasonal allergies turn to over the counter and/or prescription medications for relief. While these medications do offer relief from the symptoms, singers often find the dehydrating side effects of the antihistamines that they contain to be as bad as, or sometimes worse for the voice than the allergies themselves! So what’s a singer to do?
Fortunately there are a number of natural, non-medicinal ways to help combat your allergies. While I’m not a medical professional and can’t promise that these suggestions will fully handle your particular allergy symptoms, I do know many singers who have found them to be helpful. As with everything relating to your health, be sure to consult a trained health professional if your symptoms worsen and to layout a plan to address your personal health needs.
1. Drink plenty of water. In addition to being important for overall physical and vocal well-being, staying hydrated has been shown to reduce seasonal allergy symptoms. The general thinking on this is 1 ounce of water for every 2 pounds of body weight.
2. Use a neti pot or saline rinse to rinse pollen and other irritants out of your sinuses. Studies have shown that nasal cleansing (when done properly) is a gentle and effective way to reduce allergy symptoms. When using a neti pot, I recommend first boiling the water to remove impurities – be sure to let it cool before using and follow the manufacturers directions closely.
3. Try steaming. Steam treatments are my favorite! Steaming puts direct moisture on your vocal folds (commonly known as vocal cords), can thin and loosen congestion, rinse away irritants and generally soothe an irritated voice. To do this, pour very hot water into a bowl, drape a towel over your head (making a tent) and breathe the steam for several minutes. Be sure to wait 30 minutes after the treatment before making any vocal sound.
4. Maintain a healthy diet containing lots of raw fruits and vegetables and minimally processed foods. While a healthy diet may not have been scientifically proven to handle seasonal allergies, many people report a significant reduction in their symptoms after making these nutritional changes. Besides, there really are no negative side effects to eating better!
5. Limit your time outdoors when the pollen count is especially high. A drag I know, but helpful. Rinse pollen off your skin and hair after being outside.
6. Try an air-purifier with a HEPA filter and dust regularly (wear a mask when dusting) to keep the pollen out of your home. Also, avoid using window fans to cool rooms as these fans can pull pollen indoors.
7. Eat local raw honey. Again, while there isn’t a lot of science behind this one, many people report a noticeable reduction in their allergy symptoms when they regularly consume a teaspoon of local raw honey each day.
8. Talk with a Naturopathic or Homeopathic physician. There are many supplements and natural medicines available that have been shown to help with seasonal allergies. Talk with a physician to see if any of them may work for you.
What other remedies have you found helpful?