Keep a healthy voice, avoid singing when you're sick

Edited by Eng

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During the winter months, there seem to be many people suffering with a cold or flu. If you sing as a professional, or often sing for others in some other capacity, you are likely concerned that you may contract such an illness. It is healthy to rest and recover from any illness before you expend much energy. This is a solid enough reason to not perform while ill. Yet, there are other reasons as well. If you sing while sick, and are hoarse from illness, there is a strong chance that your vocal cords are impaired. The illness will cause you to be hoarse (laryngitis) because your vocal cords are inflamed. Inflamed and swollen vocal cords will affect your singing voice because they will now be rigid. Your vocal cords must be flexible to allow singing with range and producing a quality tone. They must be able to freely vibrate. If you absolutely must sing while ill, here are some ways that will at least help you do your best to entertain your audience.

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  1. 1
    Illness may not be the reason for losing your voice - If you are ill, it does not mean that your laryngitis is caused from the illness.
    It may be triggered from one of a few other causes. For example, it could be caused by vocal strain if you are not using the proper singing technique. If so, then one help is to warm up before each time you sing. This will gradually return your vocal cords to their best performance once again. You may need a voice coach to help you change your techniques if you become hoarse after you sing every time.
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  2. 2
    Illness may affect your singing performance - If you have a respiratory infection, even a common cold, it may well have caused your singing voice to be impaired.
    If it is only a cold, doctors advise that you give it up to two weeks to run its course. If you have a singing engagement during that time, you may have to get medical help from your doctor. It should not be done every time that you have a cold, because it can cause your body's immune system to be less efficient. Antibiotics also lose effectiveness if you resort to them for minor ailments often.
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  3. 3
    While the cold is in your lungs or larynx, it is recommended to not sing at all.
    Not only will your performance suffer, but you can damage your vocal cords. To regain the elasticity of your vocal cords more quickly after the infection is gone, do warm-up vocal exercises daily.
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  4. 4
    If your cold is in an area away from your larynx, such as in your upper throat and sinus area, you can sing with your usual tone and pitch, but it will be painful as you sing.
    Swallowing will be painful, also. Although your vocal cords may function well in this situation, naturally it will be difficult to have your usual stage presence. It is a challenge to entertain others while you are in pain.
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  5. 5
    You should visit your doctor if your voice is rough and squeaky.
    This can be a serious problem, and you should not even attempt to sing. You will discover that your upper range will be gone when singing, and you could create a long term problem by attempting to perform.
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  6. 6
    If you have no respiratory illness, and you haven't been singing or talking for an extended time, yet suddenly you are hoarse, there may be polyps or nodes that have developed in your throat.
    Visit an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor, also known as an otolaryngologist. If this throat condition lasts a couple weeks during which you are hoarse and squeaky, you should consult a specialized physician.
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  7. 7
    If you have an option to not sing, such as in an audition, pass it up while ill.
    If it is a "must do", then before you sing at the audition, politely inform those in charge that you are ill. Tell them only once. It is gauche to continue telling everyone how ill you are, but you must sing.  
    1. If you must sing while ill, make sure that it is a song that you have mastered, and are totally confident to sing.
    2. Choose one that is not challenging due to higher notes while your vocal cords are stiff.
    3. Choose one in your repertoire that is "up-beat", and short in length.
    4. Have another one as a back-up in case you are asked to sing another song.
    5. To prepare for the audition, do a vocal warm-up.
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