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Taking good care of your voice during allergy season

It is that time of year again, time for Spring allergies!  Soon the yellow stuff will be covering your cars and window panes.  For many, this means runny noses, itchy eyes, and scratchy voices.  We don’t often think about taking care of our voices as we would other parts of our body, and don’t realize how important our voice is until it isn’t working properly.   Whether you are a professional speaker or a homemaker, your voice is critical to getting things done and to maintaining social relationships.  Your voice reflects your health, your emotional state, and even your personality.  Here are some general guidelines to help you maintain good vocal health:

Hydration is #1.  Consume plenty of water and reduce intake of caffeine and alcohol, which have a drying effect on your voice.   If you like teas and soda, substitute with a decaffeinated variety.  One way to tell if you are drinking enough is to note the color of your urine when you go to the bathroom.  If your urine is pale or colorless, you are drinking enough.  Keeping the mucosa of the vocal cords moist is key for maintaining vocal health and stamina, and reducing risk for injury.

Reduce irritants to the vocal tract.  Avoid exposure to smoke, and manage sinus and reflux conditions:

Sinus drainage causes irritation to the throat from above.  Your family doctor or allergist can offer strategies and/or medications to help alleviate these symptoms.  Another important benefit of managing sinus problems is to re-establish breathing through the nose.  Nose breathing provides three essential functions: it filters, warms, and humidifies the air you are breathing.  Research indicates that “mouth breathers” have a higher incidence of upper respiratory infections.

Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) causes irritation to the throat from below.  Throat clearing, hoarseness, and bitter taste are symptoms of reflux.  For some, reflux conditions can be managed by diet and lifestyle changes; others will require medication.

Try to avoid screaming, yelling, or talking over loud noise, especially when you                  have a cold.  Turn down the television or radio while speaking, and try to visit restaurants at “off-times” when the background noise is less severe.  If cheering, use a megaphone, or a whistle (a whistle works nicely to call the dog as well!). Have your children physically come to you when they need something, rather than yelling back and forth in the house.

If you experience persistent hoarseness, visit an Ear, Nose, Throat specialist (ENT).  You may need medical attention for an underlying condition.  In addition, prolonged abuse or misuse of the voice can result in maladaptive patterns and muscle strain.  Therapy from a qualified speech-language pathologist can help you recover your voice, and get back to life as usual!

CMC-Lincoln Rehabilitation offers outpatient services for physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy.  They can be reached at (980) 212-7020.

Meredith Menudier is a speech therapist with Carolinas Medical Center-Lincoln.


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