Spring is here! Aren’t we so glad to be out of winter?
With seasonal changes, people often experience upper respiratory infections, allergies or a cold, which may result in voice changes that can last up to two weeks.
You may ask yourself, “If I have a cold or allergy, how can this affect my voice?”
The same allergies that affect your nose can affect your voice. The upper respiratory tract or sinus system is connected to your larynx (voice box) by postnasal drip.
Postnasal drip is the collection of secretions that drip down the back of your nose.
These secretions can drip directly onto your vocal cords and cause irritation, pitch changes (lower fundamental pitch), altered vocal range (loss of high notes, gain of lower notes), decreased resonance, throat pain, cough and increased risk of hemorrhage of vocal folds.
What can you do to protect your voice when colds, allergies or sinusitis arise? Try to:
- Stay hydrated. The more elasticity your vocal folds have makes it easier for them to vibrate when you speak. It also aids in decreasing thick secretions that make you want to clear your throat often. Reducing your amount of secretions decreases your risk for infections.
- Reduce voice use or rest during this period to ward off voice changes. Try to limit your voice use by building in periods of rest during the day. Instead of speaking, try other modes of communication, such as sending an email or text message. Use visual aids if speaking is not necessary.
- Use a sinus rinse to aid in clearing mucus from nasal passages. Mas Takashima, director of Baylor’s Sinus Center recommends irrigating no more than once a day as to not deplete the natural immune cells.
- Use lozenges instead of cough drops. Be sure to avoid those that have mint or menthol as they can be drying.
- Use allergy medications that don’t have a drying affect, such as nasal sprays.
Preventative care can make you healthy year round. If your voice has not improved two weeks after suffering a cold or allergy, you may want to consider a visit an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist.
By Felicia Carter, speech-language pathologist for the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Baylor’s Institute for Voice and Swallowing