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Reducing Coughing

Dear List Friends,

My inquiry concerning flu season, singers & coughing, produced some
interesting and valuable responses. I will list them below. But,
first, let me say that I know how to spell the word. The problem
occured while typing my original post. Just as the fourth finger of
my right hand touched the "o" I COUGHED and the little finger of my
left hand landed on the "a". Believable? Well, I hope it made for a
good lough, or is that laugh?

Question: Now that the flu season is upon us, are there things that
singers can do to reduce the risks of coughing during performance?
Following are the responses:

1. Drink lots of water, room temperature. keep a water bottle with
you at all times, and DO sip between pieces during a performance. I
know some people who swear by gummy bears to suck on! Avoid the
menthol cough drops. Vocal R-E-S-T. Not talking unless absolutely
neccessary, and abolutely NO WHISPERING. Hot herbal tea with lemon
juice, honey and whiskey helps me! A humidifier in the bedroom at
night, and a muffler over the mouth and nose outside. Avoid at all
costs breathing in cold, dry air, which aggravates the tickle.

2. Cough drops. I like the Ricola Natural Herb ones, and have spent
WAY too many winter concerts singing with one tucked in my cheek.

3. Coughing is one of the few symptoms of cold/flu we can consciously
control, which is GOOD because it is one of the most aggrevating
things we can do to a weakened voice. At this time of year, I like to
distribute sheets about the singing mechanism and vocal health, and
explain in rehearsal that coughing is the physical equivalent of
slamming your vocal cords together, where as SWALLOWING (yes, the
phlegm) actually sooths the throat. Most singers are hesitant to try
this at first, as they feel coughing is more productive to loosening
mucous, but swallowing will expediate their recovery (explain that
when someone is singing well, we can rarely tell that they are ill,
even if they feel stuffed-up). Also, if you have a school choir, ask
permission for your singers to carry water bottles with them during
the day, so they can drink lots of fluids CONTINUOUSLY.

4. Lot's of fluids and jolly ranchers

5. A great technique that I have used is eating apples. Many people
often have a bottle of water handy while they sing. Instead of having
this while
you sing, try an apple. Every time you feel like taking a drink, take
bite of the apple. The apple itself is a great exfoliator and the
motion creates more saliva as well...let me know what you think of

6. Warm liquids, Halls, proper support and breathing can help reduce
coughing, but not eliminate it.

7. This may sound strange but Brach's starlite peppermints is what I
use and they seem to work well for the kids. I keep them on hand all
of the
time. They work much better than cough drops that make nausea after a
few of

8. This may be a time to allow water bottles on stage. I know the
cougher feels more secure to know that something is there to drink if
the urge to cough comes. And that psychological edge may ward off the
cough. I also tell my singers who need cough drops in the performance
to bring *unwrapped* cough drops in their pocket or folder. At least
when they need one they will not have to make noise to unwrap it.

Finally, I searched the Web and found the following article, "Singing
With A Cold" by Mark Baxter. I used the salt water gargle and low
volume humming prior to
my concert on Saturday night and can report that I did not cough a
single time during performance. Although I did plenty of coughing
afterwards. - Singing With A Cold by Mark

Thanks to all who contributed to this thread.

Larry Wilson