Whether you are on medication for allergies, just got off a plane, or in a cold climate, you have experienced dry sinus issues. For a singer, this is bad news for tone quality.
As gross as it may seem, the inside of your body is made up of mucosa. Mucosa is that lining responsible for absorption and secretion. (That’s where mucus comes from.)
Question: Why does our nose get dry?
Answer 1: Our nose acts like a filter/humidifier to prep the outside air for our lungs. If the outside air is dry (i.e. on an air plane) our nose can’t properly humidify the air and our mucousa drys out.
Answer 2: We take medication that causes dry mouth.
Answer 3: We are dehydrated and our mucosa can not excrete a thin layer of mucous for moisture.
Question: Why do dry sinuses ruin a singer’s tone quality?
Answer: The mucosa lining is all through your nasopharynx, oropharynx and laryngopharynx. For the singer, it moves and expands to accommodate vocal frequency and create natural reverberation. If it is dry, that movement can not happen thereby hindering your tone quality.
Now, another interesting question is: Why does our nose run?
Well, on the NPR show, Science Out of the Box we learn from Dr. Andrew Lane, that in cold air and/or cold weather environments our nose must go one step further and warm up the outside the air to make it nice and “conditioned” before it reaches the lungs. Dr. Lane states:
…in order to do this, the nose has to add some moisture to it.When it’s very cold out, the air is usually dry as well, and the nose is really working overtime to add some fluid. And there are reflexes that are in place that allow the nose to increase its fluid production. And if it really makes a lot of fluid, then it starts to run out of the end of your nose…the warm air that you’re breathing is condensing in the cold air, so you see it as little droplets of water. And that’s because cold air can’t hold as much moisture as warm air. When you breathe that air back out, it comes to the very tip of your nose where the nose is cold and that fluid is going to re-condense onto the surface of the nose and that will also run out.
Things you can do?
- STAY HYDRATED! Drink water through out the day! It takes about 20 minutes for your the water you drink to hydrate your body. Drink WELL before you sing. Right before may help you relax your throat with a swallow, but it will be a while before your vocal cords feel the hydration.
- READ the medication you take and see if there are drying side effects. Most all medications for allergies are antihistamines that dry you out by limiting the amount of mucosa fluid that is excreted. A histamine is not a bad thing, in fact, it’s a chemical used by the body to help the immune system protect the body from infection. The histamine causes small blood vessels to expand and the surrounding skin to swell for protection. Allergic reactions, however, can cause an abundance of histamine and cause life threatening inflammation. Antihistamines block this reaction drying the mucousa in the process.
- IRRIGATE your sinuses! I can not stress this enough! A NeilMed Sinus Rinse is a MUST for a professional and the easiest way to irrigate. Use distilled water for the cleanest cleanse. Tap water COULD have microbes that get into your brain. (I’m not joking!)
- NO CAFFEINE OR ALCOHOL. Steer clear of these dehydrating drinks. If you need something in the morning, try organic apple juice instead.
- HUMIDIFY! Invest in a cool mist humidifier for your home during dry seasons. A cool mist humidifier is a better choice since warm ones tend to grow mold and bacteria. In either case, use distilled water and clean it often.
What if you’re already dry?
- STOP drinking alcohol and caffeine immediately.
- To speed up hydration, try coconut water. It’s benefits? More potassium that 4 bananas, easy digestible sugars and electrolytes, loads less sodium and sugar than sports drinks, and now comes in more than one flavor.
- Use a hydration spray. My favorite nasal sprays are NeilMed Naso Gel (with sodium hyaluronate and aloe vera) and Xlear (with xylitol and grapefruit seed extract.)
- Use hydrating lozenges. I’ve used Thayer’s spray and lozenges for years. Sugary lozenges are not the best, but if you can’t find Thayer’s, gummy bears will work in a pinch. The glycerin in gummies helps soothe and coat the throat. Try to find the organic kind that doesn’t have processed sugar. Glycerin is also one of the main ingredients in Entertainer’s Secret Throat Spray!
BE SMART! Your vocal cords are like a runner’s legs. Protect and care for them! They are the only pair you’ll get!