In our last post, we talked about some preventative measures you can take to keep your vocal cords healthy all year round. Today, we want to focus on how to help them heal at times when they become strained. Whether it’s from cheering on your favorite team or suffering through an illness, there are times when our voice just doesn’t work like it should. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders offers these guidelines for figuring out if your vocal folds are irritated or unhealthy:
- Has your voice become hoarse or raspy?
- Does your voice suddenly sound deeper?
- Does your throat often feel raw, achy, or strained?
- Has it become an effort to talk?
- Do you find yourself repeatedly clearing your throat?
If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, your vocal cords probably need some extra care. Here are a few things you can do to help get back to communicating at full capacity quickly.
Reach for ginger.
Healthfully offers this easy (and tasty) recipe for a soothing ginger honey tea. “Boil a cup of water and toss in a piece of [peeled] ginger root. Allow the water to boil with the ginger root for 10 minutes, then remove the root and add 2 tsps. of honey to your ginger tea.” Let the tea cool to a warm temperature and then, “sip this slowly to soothe your vocal cords. Make a cup three times a day or more often as needed for pain.” Studies show that ginger has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. So it’s a great treatment for sore throats, whatever the cause of the irritation.
It’s no secret that our bodies need water to function. If your voice feels scratchy, it may be an indication that you haven’t been drinking enough water. Studies vary about how much water is enough. Most doctors will tell you that water intake is relative to the individual. Factors like your weight, how much you exercise, and what kind of climate you are in all come into play. However, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine say that, on average, men should drink about 15.5 cups a day and women should aim for 11.5 cups a day. Keep in mind, this number is your total fluid intake including the water you’ll get from the food and other drinks you have, in addition to any water you drink.
If you are someone who uses his voice more than the average person, you might want to invest in a personal steam inhaler to help your vocal cords heal when they are strained. Professional singer and educator Meghan Nixon uses and recommends the Vicks Personal Steam Inhaler. Using a steam inhaler before and after presentations can help keep your vocal folds moist, leading to quicker healing and optimal vocal performance.
If you’ve been speaking more than normal or if you’ve been sick, your vocal cords might be inflamed and irritated. That’s especially true if you’ve been coughing a lot. Just like sore muscles or a pulled back need time to heal after overuse or an injury, so do injured vocal cords. When you realize your vocal cords are strained, make an effort to use them as little as possible for a few days. Use a notepad or your phone to write or text or messages to allow your voice some time to heal. Prolonged use of strained vocal cords can make the problem worse or extend your vocal irritation for longer. Rest is often the quickest path back to a healthy voice.
If you’ve tried using the tips above and you continue to have trouble using your voice, you should seek the opinion and care of a medical professional. Your voice is a priceless and important part of who you are. It allows you communicate your needs and your opinions and your story to the world. Care for it as such.
Once your voice is healed and you are ready to level up your speaking skills, check out our all-new, online course to learn the presentation methods used by some of the best in the world.