27 Sep Singing with Bronchitis
Different singers have different struggles…
Many singers have poor technique (and if you find yourself “losing your voice” frequently you should really consider proper training or re-training if your technique has laxed)
Some singers are hindered by seasonal allergies…
Some singers never get enough physical rest…
For me, it’s bronchitis. I seem to get it at least once a year. My dad gets is every year and I’m assuming it’s a susceptibility that I’ve inherited.
Unfortunately for me, work doesn’t end just because I am coughing and hacking away. I still have to sing. While there seems to be nothing worse for my beloved chords than the fierce coughing so prevalent in bronchitis, over the years I have found a way to keep the coughing to a minimum, and thus reduce the impact to my voice and overall singing.
Talk as little as possible (which is difficult for me)
Regularly use cough drops with a high menthol content (I prefer Halls Sugar Free peppermint)
and the MOST important: Hot peppermint tea
Regularly sipping on hot peppermint tea, especially mint with it’s soothing vapors, significantly reduces coughing. It’s like night and day. Seriously, within 20 minutes or so of finishing a cup I will start right into coughing again. But keeping the tea on hand (I keep it HOT in a thermos) reduces my coughing by 90% at least.
This is NOT a solution for laryngitis caused by vocal abuse. With bronchitis, the bronchial tubes are infected and inflamed, and mucus collects on the vocal chords. That chest congestion makes you want to cough which in turn causes further irritation to the chords. You need to cough to help clear out the mucus, but in my experience the vast majority of coughs are not productive. They only serve to further irritate the chords.
The hot tea, for whatever reason, helps reduce my coughing. I discovered this when I had to play and sing for several hours at a wedding ceremony and reception in January 2010. I actually had two weddings back to back that weekend, one on Friday and the other on Saturday.
I came down with bronchitis just before the first wedding, which happened to be held at Inside the Bungalow, a beautiful wedding venue and coffee shop. It was cold out so naturally I wanted something warm to drink, and one of the owners recommended a lemon tea. Well, that tea got me through the night.
I didn’t know it was the tea that helped so much, until at the next day’s wedding, I found myself barely getting through songs without coughing into the mic. I asked one of the waiters for some hot herbal tea, and it worked like magic. I told him to “keep it coming”! I sang 5 hours that night.
Now, the ideal situation is to NOT SING AT ALL when you have bronchitis. However, if singing is part of your profession, the show must go on. I still highly recommend that you “play it safe” in your singing. Do not choose your most technically challenging pieces when you are sick (OBVIOUSLY). Play more instrumental if you can, but I hope that these tips can at least help you get through the gig as they have helped me.