Christmas party SOS: 'Tis the season to sing carols – not the time to lose your voiceThe guide to save your vocal chords for carolling and Christmas cheer
22:00 GMT, 15 December 2012
Plunging temperatures, sore throats, lusty carol-singing and the drying effect of central heating are just a few elements of the Christmas party season that conspire against the vocal cords.
Professor Ronald Eccles, director of the Common Cold Centre at Cardiff University, says: ‘These things cause inflammation, irritation or infection of the larynx – also known as the voice box – leading to hoarseness, a sore throat and sometimes complete loss of voice.’
Here, in the second instalment of our three-part festive series, experts provide practical tips to help ensure that your voice remains loud and clear amid the merry-making.
Carolling season: During Christmas time you should be singing carols – not quieting down – so take care of your voice box
STAY HEALTHY – WITH A SIP OF RIBENA
The drier the vocal cords, the more inflamed they will become, so ensure you stay hydrated.
‘Drink hot drinks every couple of hours if you can,’ says Prof Eccles. ‘These stimulate salivation and mucus secretions in the throat, which lubricate and soothe. Ribena is good because the strong flavour stimulates saliva production, as does the lemon in Lemsip, which also contains paracetamol.’
GIVE A TRADITIONAL HOT TODDY A MISS
Caffeine and alcohol have a dehydrating effect on the vocal cords. ‘It’s traditional to have a hot toddy, but soaking the vocal cords in alcohol can do more harm than good,’ says Janet Wilson, a professor of head and neck surgery at Newcastle University.
If you must drink alcohol, opt for beer as it is less acidic and lower in alcohol than wine or spirits. Limit tea or coffee consumption to four cups a day.
DON’T SHOUT . . .
Shouting causes the vocal folds to slam together, which irritates the throat and promotes inflammation.
‘If you’re losing your voice, try not to talk at all and, whatever you do, don’t shout,’ says Prof Wilson. ‘If you have children or dogs, invest in a whistle.’
Return your voice: Don't shout and don't whisper
. . . AND DON’T WHISPER
Whispering can also put the vocal cords under strain because it stops them closing properly.
‘Whispering involves moving a large amount of air through the larynx, which dries it out further,’ Prof Wilson points out. ‘Try to speak quietly instead.’
ENJOY A SPOONFUL OF SOOTHING HONEY
teaspoon of manuka honey, which has antibacterial properties, every two
hours can help prevent as well as treat infected vocal cords,’ says
Philip Weeks, an expert in natural medicine and nutrition. ‘Honey also
helps to soothe and lubricate.’
FULL STEAM AHEAD
an extra mug of hot water every time you make a drink and inhale the
steam,’ says Prof Wilson. ‘Think of the larynx as being dry and cracked.
A steam bath is like applying a moisturiser.’
FIND YOUR INNER YOGI
exercise is a showbiz secret,’ says Philip Weeks. ‘The idea is to
create a low larynx sound, like that made by cartoon character Yogi
Bear. This results in reducing the inflammation in the throat and vocal
cords by increasing blood flow.
can tell if you are talking in a low larynx sound by gently touching
your Adam’s apple [or where it would be if you are a woman] and talking
in a way that results in it dropping to a lower position in your throat.
Speak in this way for a few minutes, and then speak normally – your
voice will sound better.
it for a maximum of five minutes and then rest. Just be careful not to
force the voice. Try this 30 minutes before going out to see whether
you can improve the rasping tone.’
GET YOUR ASPIRIN FIX
Prof Wilson recommends gargling with aspirin twice a day: ‘Dissolve a soluble aspirin in water and gargle for a few minutes. Don’t swallow as aspirin can irritate the stomach lining.’
AVOID SPICY FOOD
‘Acid reflux is prevalent at this time of year because of the rich food and drink we indulge in,’ points out Mr Kalpesh Patel, an ENT consultant at BMI The Clementine Churchill Hospital. ‘Stomach acid can irritate the throat so avoid spicy and oily food and eating late at night.’
Philip Weeks says: ‘Cutting mint tea out of the diet will help too. While this is great for preventing stomach spasms, it aggravates reflux. Instead, try fennel or ginger.’
‘There is no miracle cure to bring a voice back within a day but if you keep quiet during the hours leading up to the party, you might be able to regain some volume,’ says Prof Wilson. ‘Whatever you do, don’t push your voice. If you force sound out, you can cause bleeding on the vocal cords, which may mean months of recovery and even surgery. Everyone loves a listener – it’s quite likely you will be the most popular guest at the party.’