Following our previous blog What to do if you have to sing with a cold, in this blog our Principal Singing Teacher Peter Vox is continuing the series on vocal care during, and rehabilitation after sickness.
So, what is laryngitis? What causes it, and is it contagious? How long does laryngitis last? How to figure out if you have it? Can you sing or speak with laryngeal inflammation? What can you do to treat it at home, and when to go to your doctor? What medication should you ask your doctor about – anti-inflammatory, antibiotics, steroids, – and how do they help with your recovery?
Following from our last blog “What to do if you have to sing with a cold”, let’s talk about what to if you contract laryngitis – the singer’s worst nightmare.
That means you have an infection in your larynx, which is where your vocal cords are, and you generally won’t be able to sing or speak.
When you develop laryngitis, generally you would have had a viral infection beforehand. If you have a cold or, possibly, a flu – that may lead to getting laryngitis. Or, you could have had a lower respiratory tract infection – generally, bronchitis – which would go up just an inch, and go to your larynx and cause laryngitis.
You generally start losing your speaking or singing voice from the top down, so your true voice will go, and you voice range will drop very low. Because your vocal cords will be swollen up, basically. When you have laryngitis – any “…itis” means inflammation – the vocal cords will be swollen.
If you have developed laryngitis, you need to go to your doctor immediately. You need to stress that you’re a singer, and you want your voice back as quickly as possible. The first thing to ask for is a penicillin shot (if you’re not allergic to it). They will give you a penicillin shot in the backside, and usually this is going to help you out within one or two hours. You should feel better, and your voice will begin returning within a couple of hours after a penicillin shot.
In addition, the doctor will prescribe you some antibiotic pills. And, possibly, some anti-inflammatories, as well. But, generally, antibiotics in pill form aren’t going to make you feel better for about 12 hours. It takes time for it to go through your system and make a noticeable change in your condition.
Unfortunately, about 2 weeks ago I developed laryngitis. I finished my classes last Wednesday, and my voice was pretty much gone. I went to the doctor, got a penicillin shot at the backside, he put me on some very strong combination therapy – 800 mg of Amoxicillin (antibiotic – kills bacteria) + Clavulanate potassium (a beta-lactamase inhibitor – helps prevent certain bacteria from becoming resistant to antibiotics it is added to). I was also on a steroid. Another antibiotic I was prescribed – Zithromax, it’s very strong, and they only only gave me three pills.
Nurofen (Ibuprofen) is an anti-inflammatory, it is very good for such times, and I highly recommend it if you have laryngitis, or even if your voice is a little strained when singing. The natural anti-inflammatory is ginger, I highly recommend that as well. Cut a fresh root up, put it into tea, or boil it. Drink ginger water all day, it is very good when you’re sick, and also if you have laryngitis or strained your voice.
Never self-medicate without your doctor’s advice, and always ask whether it’s safe for you! With professional help and proper treatment, I was back up and teaching singing only a day and a half later.
Now, I’ve been teaching singing for close to a quarter of a decade, and I have only had about 9 days off from singing in my total career. That is because I have done all the procedures I have described in the previous blogs and videos, took care of my voice and nipped my cold and flu in the but in the first couple of days. I have got laryngitis a handful of times, I’ve done what I just told you here, and got over these infections very quickly – within 3-4 days I’ve had 80-90% of my voice back. And within 4-5 days, next week practically, my voice completely returned to normal, 100%..
Again – please, do not push your voice until it comes back, so that you will not make the symptoms worse. Please, take care of your voice. Slightly warm up your voice when you’re recovering from laryngitis, and see how much you’ve got to use.
Once your voice is fully recovered – please keep on doing what you do, and go enjoy singing as quickly as you possibly can. That’s what we are here to do! We sing because we love it, and we definitely don’t want to be getting laryngitis, and I hope that this has helped you out.
In the next blog, I will tell you my personal secrets that have kept my voice and my whole body healthy for the last 25 years.
Get better, and talk soon!
Watch a video version here:
Have fun singing,
The Vox Team
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