This week on social media a broadcaster was looking for tips to improve her croaky sound, presumably heading to work with a cold and sore throat.
The best tip is not to go.
Forget rum and brandy, honey and warm water, gargling with salt etc. as a broadcaster it is really important not to push through and use your voice when you have symptoms that are affecting your throat.
That’s according to Speech Pathologist Jane Backhouse from Adelaide Voice and Speech Services.
“Colds and flu can affect the larynx or voice box which is in behind the Adam’s apple. This might include redness and swelling of the vocal folds (often called the vocal cords), which vibrate together to make voice. This is often exacerbated by all the coughing and throat clearing we do when we have a cold which involves banging the vocal fold together harshly, causing further inflammation and swelling”.
Using your voice while sick can lead to two changes: a) injury to the tissue of the vocal folds so they are unable to vibrate efficiently and b) unknowingly changing the way the larynx sets up for speech so that we strain or force the voice.
“ It’s a bit like limping when you have a sore leg but the limping continues after the soreness has gone”.
Both those changes can contribute to ongoing voice difficulties such as fatigue, croakiness, difficulty projecting, loss of colour or modulation in the voice.
“ It is possible to end up with vocal fold nodules or a cyst”.
So how should we look after our throat/voice during a cold?
“Rest your voice if you develop a throat infection or allergy that affects your voice. Drink more water. Use caution with medicated throat lozenges as they can be drying or numb your throat; this means the pain may go away but it doesn’t mean the throat is well and ready for lots of voice use. Steam inhalations twice a day, taking care not to burn your mouth or throat can help clear mucous and hydrate the lining of the throat.”
Jane’s final message for broadcasters aiming to “push through” this cold and flu season…
“Don’t! For a radio announcer, your voice is THE tool of your trade – just as much as it is for an opera singer. Taking a few simple steps to care for your voice can keep it healthy and vibrant so you can go on connecting with your audiences for the long haul”.