An Allergy Checklist for Singers
Allergy season is starting early! An allergy is an abnormal response to a normal substance. For singers, it is important to know and treat allergies to keep singing as well as possible.
- Identify your allergies. Get tested and find out what your true allergies are!
There are several basic categories: Indoor airborne, outdoor, contact, and food. Let’s just say at first that for singers, it is mostly the airborne allergies (both indoor and outdoor) that cause us to have problems when singing. Some examples of outdoor allergies are airborne pollens from trees, grasses, weeds, or airborne molds. Indoor allergies could be to molds, pet dander, or to dust mites, to name a few. Food allergies tend to affect the digestive tract, and contact allergies tend to cause hives or rashes. In this post I will focus on the indoor and outdoor allergies.
- Avoid contact with the allergens as much as possible when you have to sing.
If you are allergic to just one or two pollens, you may have a just couple of weeks when you feel allergy symptoms. That’s why it’s important to know which pollens set off your system.
If you have outdoor allergies and exercise or spend time outdoors, be sure to shower, shampoo, and change clothes when you come indoors to remove pollen particles from your person. Your indoor environment also needs to be kept as free as possible from those tiny particles. Remove shoes when entering the house. Keep windows and doors closed.
If you have indoor allergies, try to reduce your exposure. Clean, vacuum, use plastic pillowcases and mattress pads, get a higher-powered furnace filter, de-humidify to reduce molds, limit pets to certain areas, etc.. If you live in an older home and are allergic to molds, you could consider mold removal service.
- Be aware of reactive foods.
These foods have similar proteins to other allergens like pollen, and may increase your allergic reaction. https://www.aaaai.org/Aaaai/media/MediaLibrary/Images/Conditions/Library/OAS-table_revised.pdf
- Care for your breathing mechanism.
Hydrate to keep the mucus running thin and clear. The guideline is still 8 glasses of water per day although recently that has been disputed.
Nasal rinsing with a Neti-pot or Neil-Med bottle and saline solution provides quick relief. Do it twice per day during allergy season, or upon coming indoors from outdoor activities. Use 1 pint lukewarm distilled or boiled water to ½ tsp. salt, a pinch of baking soda if possible. Clean it after every use! The water should be distilled or boiled. Why? A certain amoeba that can attack the brain has been (rarely) found in untreated water. https://www.webmd.com/brain/brain-eating-amoeba
- Medicate as needed, sensibly.
A non-drowsy over-the-counter antihistamine such as Zyrtec, Claritin, or Allegra (or generic equivalents) lessens allergy symptoms, but you must take the drug for a few days to get results. Also it can dry you out — increase your fluid intake. The older type antihistamine (such as Benadryl) can cause drowsiness, but may be more effective. Consult your medical professional, especially if you already take other medications.
Nasal spray: Flonase (fluticasone) nasal spray reduces swelling in the nasal passages, the first landing point for airborne allergens; the results are not instant, but it is available without prescription. If this isn’t enough, your healthcare provider can prescribe something different that is more effective for you.
- Be aware of good vocal technique and sensible practice routines. Remember, when you are singing too forcefully (“pressed phonation”) the first response is to produce more mucus on the vocal folds. That’s the last thing you need in allergy season.
- Keep your body healthy with appropriate diet, exercise and sleep.