I’m Sick. . .Should I Sing?
By Jennifer Cannady, MA CCC-SLP
It’s the start of a new semester for teachers and students and the start of a new year for all. Flu shots or not, we’re continually exposed to many illnesses in January, February and March. Yes, people get sick year-round, but these cold winter months yield both wanted and unwanted “togetherness”. We breathe the same air, share the same germs, and hand washing isn’t always readily available (though still recommended).
Within our practice, we see professional voice users of all sorts, and the reality is that unless tucked away coding on a remote computer, most of us must use our voices daily – all day. Albeit not optimal, an accountant or lawyer might still be able to push through the day with a bit of hoarseness. People frequently confess, “It all started when I pushed through an illness”. This is especially true for singers. Terrified that they will be deemed difficult and diva-esque, singers tend to push through illness as though competing in an Olympic sport. Why? Because for so many singers, the demands to push through are great. These demands are both external and internal and occur at both the amateur and professional level.
The risk of pushing through an illness is probably not worth the gamble. Singing with swollen vocal folds, irritated throats, or even general malaise, results in potential tissue damage, not to mention habituating into bad technique in order to get through it. This is the time to be difficult, the time to be a diva. Take the risk of upsetting your colleagues and classmates and take care of yourself. Despite numerous myths, there are no quick fixes. Systemic steroids may get someone through an important performance or audition, but are not without side effects. Many times, just resting for a day or two can prevent further problems, including the dreaded vocal fold injury. More rest time may be needed if you are very sick. The best remedy? Grandmotherly advice ensues here: eight hours of sleep, gentle vocal warm ups even if pulling back, hydrate-hydrate-hydrate. Put the Do Not Disturb sign on your metaphorical or actual greenroom door and for Streisand’s sake – give it time.