Pollen or dust, cats or mold. Allergies can make you hoarse for a number of reasons:
Allergens irritate the vocal cords (just like they do the nose or eyes), impairing their function.
Allergy medications like antihistamines dry out the vocal cords, irritating them further.
Post nasal drip can irritate the vocal cords even more, and obviously make it harder to breathe easily.
But wait! There’s hope!
Voice changes that you might experience include:
- loss of pitch range
- vocal fatigue
- loss of vocal stamina
- difficulty projecting
- increased throat clearing or coughing
- loss of vocal power
I can’t avoid things I’m allergic to — what do I do?
A healthy voice is like a favorite blankie – always there for us and requiring only minor care. Sometimes, however, it asks us to help it with all the work it does for us. Here’s how you can help your voice manage allergies:
Stay hydrated. You can read all about why hydration is important, and how to achieve it, in my blog post, Why you need to keep your voice moist (That’s right, I said “moist”!). In short, drink tons of water, and use some form of topical hydration like inhaling steam or nebulized saline.
Don’t push your voice. If the vocal cords are swollen or irritated, their ability to function is reduced. If you push when your body asks you to stop, there is a risk of real injury to the vocal cords. This might include building in times of vocal rest throughout the day.
Medications matter. If possible, use nasal sprays rather than antihistamines, which are drying to the whole system. That is, of course, why we use them — to help dry up the extra mucus. But medicine doesn’t know how to discriminate, so everything gets dry. Nasal sprays can still be irritating and drying to the voice, but often less so than pills.
Address your environment. If you are prone to certain allergens, keep your space either closed or well ventilated (depending on the source of the allergen), consider a HEPA filter air purifier, and change linens and towels frequently.
Consider allergy shots. Many allergies are treatable by immunotherapy. This solution requires a bit of an investment of time and money, but can have long-term benefits.
Sometimes voice changes can persist, or return with such frequency the they become harder to change. That’s when you might want to book a session to learn about specific ways to solve your particular vocal problems.