by Taylor Morgan
September is here, which means that fall is quickly approaching. Whether you’ll be singing in the school choir or cheering for your favorite football team, your voice is bound to be at the center of your autumnal activities. Unfortunately, people tend to ill-advisedly misuse or overuse their voices while engaging in many fall pursuits. With fall allergies triggered by the changing of the seasons also thrown into the mix, it’s essential to prepare yourself with need-to-know techniques to keep your voice healthy and prevent strain.
As summer turns to fall and the weather cools, the amount of moisture in the air decreases. As a result, our vocal folds can easily dry out if we aren’t careful to stay well-hydrated. It is often easy to forget to drink fluids over the course of a colder day since we don’t sweat the same way we do when the weather is warmer, and we may even dehydrate ourselves further with antihistamines or caffeinated beverages like hot coffee and tea. Dry heat in our houses adds to this misery.
If you are someone who tends to forget to drink water over the course of the day, consider setting personal goals for water-drinking. For example, count out how many ounces of water per day you need in advance—ideally, halve your body weight and drink that amount in ounces of water—and fill a large bottle or pitcher with that amount of water. Aim to empty it by the end of each day. Remember to drink an extra glass of room temperature water for every dehydrating drink you have, whether that’s a caffeinated beverage like coffee or tea, or alcohol. Here’s some additional information about how to hydrate effectively.
In addition to remembering to meet your water-drinking goals, steaming is another excellent way to keep your vocal cords hydrated. Since the air is drier when it’s colder, your vocal folds need a little extra help staying moist, and simply drinking water isn’t always enough to keep them adequately moist. When vocal folds are dry, there is a greater risk of strain or injury when you use them. You have to use more force to vibrate dry vocal folds than wet ones. But steam — water that you breathe — can be inhaled directly onto the surface of the vocal folds, providing more direct hydration than simply ingesting water alone. You can easily steam at home by simply boiling a pot of water over a hot stove and (carefully) inhaling, or you can invest in a facial steamer. In homes with forced air heating—and even just for homes turning on their heat for the first time this season—steaming is an absolute vocal lifesaver.
We recommend the VocalMist portable rechargeable nebulizer*, which uses isotonic saline to help you steam on the go. So whether you’re outside at the homecoming game, going apple-picking, or walking around the fall festival, you can literally breathe easy and condition your vocal folds.
The changing of the seasons also means the return of fall allergies. Ragweed pollen is the primary allergy trigger of the season, reaching peak levels around mid-September. A single plant can produce up to 1 billion pollen grains, and those hay fever-inducing grains can travel hundreds of miles by wind. Meanwhile, mold and dust mites, the other two big fall allergens, are common in our homes and the schools our children are returning to, and dust mites can be distributed into the air of our homes when we turn on the heat for the first time since last winter.
Keeping our vocal folds healthy means keeping the air we breathe clean and free of irritants and allergens— which is why we strongly recommend using an air purifier such as the medical-grade ones produced by Medify. Karen Sussman uses Medify air purifiers** in her own home and office, and has found them highly effective in removing 99.9% of airborne particles and filtering out contaminants. Don’t forget your neti pot or sinus rinse kit.
So get out there and enjoy your autumn activities, and remember to follow our Fabulous Fall Tips for the Voice!
*As a VocalMist Affiliate, Professional Voice Care Center earns money from qualifying purchases.
**As a Medify Affiliate, Professional Voice Care Center earns money from qualifying purchases.