How To Keep From Losing Your Voice When Everyone Around You Is Sneezing And Coughing In Your Face


“How To Keep From Losing Your Voice When Everyone Around You Is Sneezing And Coughing In Your Face”

By Susan Berkley

The information contained in this issue comes from an interview I conducted with top Ear, Nose and Throat specialist, Dr. Wallace Rubin. Dr. Rubin is a clinical professor of otorhinolaryngology and bio communication at Louisiana State University and has a private practice in New Orleans. Dr. Rubin very graciously took time out from his busy schedule to answer my questions and tell us how to care for the voice at this time of the year. I am very grateful for his contribution.

Dr. Rubin, what causes laryngitis?

Swelling of the mucus membranes over the vocal chords, viral infections like colds and flu and bacterial infections. The body usually has protective chemicals in the mucus membranes to keep an infection in the nose, sinus or lungs from moving up or down to the vocal chords, but it doesn’t always work.

Can you get sick from using someone else’s head set or telephone?

It’s very difficult thing to document. It’s more likely that the sick person has been near you and they’ve coughed or sneezed into the air close to you and you get it that way.

How about from a cup or silverware?

You can get it that way. Just put your plates and silverware in the dishwasher and that will take care of it.

What about breathing cold air? Should you cover your nose and mouth with a scarf if it’s really cold outside?

It won’t help much. It won’t hurt if it makes you more comfortable. But as far as preventing anything there’s not much difference.

If you get laryngitis is there a cure?

Definitely. Curable and preventable. The first step is to determine whether it’s a bacterial infection and if so, antibiotics are very useful. If it’s viral we have a group of prescription drugs today that are very useful to build up the body’s immunity to get you over it. You attack the infection first and then give medications for swelling and blockage like antihistamines, decongestants and nasal steroids.

How long does it usually take for a person to recover their voice?

If they do the things I just mentioned, 24 hours for some people. But you can surely be performing in 48 to 72 hours. I take care of many opera singers. We give the medication by injection to get the swelling down quickly.

Can clearing your throat damage the voice?

Definitely. If you’ve already got laryngitis and you are a speaker or performer of any kind when you clear your throat you’re banging those vocal chords against each other. It would be like taking an arm or leg that’s already swollen and beating it against the wall. I tell my patients to swallow instead. If you can avoid the throat clearing you’ll get well faster.

What are some other ways people abuse their voice?

Smoking. Certain people have a lot of trouble with alcohol consumption. Over-use. Trying to get to an audience without a microphone.

What are the most common allergies that effect the voice?

Most people are aware of inhalant allergies like trees, grass, and mold. But food allergies can give a delayed response. The most common are dairy, soy, wheat, peanut and egg. A doctor can help you identify and prevent the problem.

What are the warning signs of a serious throat problem?

If it persists for more than a few days, or gets treated and doesn’t clear up. That’s the point at which certain larynx testing procedures, even biopsies, need to be done.

When should you go to a specialist instead of the family doctor?

Don’t wait too long. If you don’t get over the problem after being treated by a general physician in a few days or a week, see a specialist.

Here are Doctor Rubin’s suggestions for winter relief:

  1. Turn down the heat at night.Sleeping in an overheated room can dry the protective mucus membranes of the nose, sinus and chest, leaving you more susceptible to infection. Better to add extra blankets and turn the thermostat down.
  2. Use a humidifierhey definitely help, not just at night but during the day as well. But be sure to get a warm mist unit and clean it according to manufacturer’s directions. Cool mist humidifiers can promote the growth of mold and yeast and should be avoided. Air purifiers are also helpful.
  3. See a doctor if a throat problem persists for longer than 2 or 3 days.Try and stay away from sick people. But if you do get a sore throat, give yourself a day or two to rest. If you’re a regular exerciser, skip your work out. It can temporarily lower immunity. Eat properly and drink lots of water. Avoid alcohol. It’s dehydrating. If you’re not feeling better within 48-72 hours see your doctor.
  4. Don’t take antibiotics without getting a blood test or nasal smear.Respiratory symptoms are caused by three things: viruses, bacteria and allergies. Antibiotics will only cure bacterial infections. They will not work if you are suffering from a virus or an allergy. To avoid taking drugs you don’t need and exposing yourself unnecessarily to the side effects of antibiotics, ask your doctor for a simple blood test or nasal smear to help make a proper diagnosis before taking any drugs.
  5. Avoid over-the-counter nasal sprays such as Neo-Synephrine and Afrin. They can dry out the mucus membranes and make your voice sound worse.These sprays cause immediate shrinking of the mucous membranes followed by swelling. You can get into trouble with these sprays because over time the shrinking becomes less and the swelling becomes more, causing a rebound effect.
  6. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.Especially in the winter to counter the drying effects of the heating system or if you have an infection. Infections tend to force a lot of liquid out of the body.

Dr. Wallace Rubin can be reached at his private practice in New Orleans at 504-888-8800. Special thanks to Tom Hicks, telemarketing manager of Medical Arts Press, for suggesting the topic for this month’s issue.


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Susan Berkley is a top voice over artist and founder of The Great Voice Company, a company devoted to teaching great voices around the world how to become successful voice over actors. The Great Voice Company is an international leader in voice over training and in providing top quality voice over recordings in all languages to discerning businesses and marketers. For additional information visit www.greatvoice.com.

Copyright 2012, The Great Voice Company. All Rights Reserved. “HOW TO KEEP FROM LOSING YOUR VOICE”.

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