“…A person can develop ‘la grippe.’” From Adelaide’s Lament
It is mid-November in the Midwest and you know what that means. A few leaves still cling to branches after their brethren have made a truly lovely, colorful exit. Birds are gathering on trees and powerlines to migrate en masse as soon as it turns cold enough. The geese…….well, those ornery geese will stick around until they feel like leaving…..and it might not be for a while. We’ve had several lovely Indian Summer type days of late, but as a true Midwesterner, I don’t let balmy days lull me into a false sense of security. The North Wind has not begun to blow in earnest; the character building weather is a month or so off here in Chicago but we know what is coming. There is a distinct nip in the air which leads me to believe the real deal of winter isn’t far off.
I got out my bedroom humidifier out over the weekend and cleaned and cranked it up. Instead of waiting until I woke to a sore throat for more than four days in a row, I decided to be proactive this year and got it going sooner rather than later. With forced air heat, dryness can be difficult for singers and I’ve depended on a bedroom humidifier for years. It will be of one of the things I depend on to keep healthy over the next few months of the Choral Busy Season and the winter weather that follows.
I set myself up to be healthy during the fall and winter because, like you, I don’t have time to be sick. Getting into the habits of washing my hands all the time (and being especially diligent during cold and flu season), sleeping with a bedroom humidifier once the heating system is on, drinking plenty of water or low or non-caffeinated fluids and getting as much sleep as possible has held me in good stead. I am rarely sick anymore. I am not a physician; I just live with one and don’t really feel comfortable dispensing medical advice accept for one bit: WASH YOUR HANDS!
I was always an allergy, cough and cold gal. Viruses found me no matter what and they always seemed to hit when I was busiest. It was after a particular nasty bout of upper respiratory purgatory I came to the conclusion; there had to be a better way. Since my spouse is an Otolaryngologist (and he was tired of hearing me cough and complain, especially the complaining part), I asked him what I could do to prevent this happening again. I asked again last night and he gave the same advice: Wash Your Hands!
Washing your hands and avoiding sick people (if possible) is good advice for anyone in the teaching profession. Whether we teach in an actual academic setting or not, we Choral Folk are teachers; teachers depend on their voices. And teachers get exposed to whatever bug is making the rounds. Since many of us are also singers (or need to be able to demonstrate), we have to be doubly conscientious about our vocal health. Hand washing is an easy way to be proactive.
Sounds simple, right? Yet most of us don’t wash our hands often enough when we are clearly being exposed to whatever bug is going through town. Hand sanitizers are a good substitute if you can’t get to soap and water right away. I always tried to wash my hands before my children’s choir’s rehearsal but rarely after, simply because I wanted to get back on the road before rush hour. If I had made time to either wash my hands on the way out or had used a hand sanitizer in my car before leaving the parking lot, I probably would have avoided a whole bunch of coughing, sneezing and misery.
What do you do to keep yourself healthy as we approach the Choral Busy Season? In your part of the world, what are the challenges you face as a choral musician because of your climate and how do you handle them?