It’s January, and that means it’s cold season! When you have a cold, often, it can seem like a bad idea to keep singing. Singers often cancel gigs because they have a cold. So should you stop singing if you have the sniffles?

There’s a very simple rule with singing when you have a cold: if it hurts don’t sing. Otherwise, you can keep on singing as normal!

You might, of course, find that you have a more limited vocal range, or need to take more frequent breaths. You might also have less stamina than usual, or be unable to produce your usual tones and sounds.

If you have a cold, here are some tip to help you take care of your voice:

  • Keep hydrated. If you’ve got a blocked nose, your mouth and throat can get dry, so be sure to drink regularly.
  • Keep your drinks warm. Slightly steamy drinks help to keep your nose and throat from getting dry.
  • Take care with taking cold medicines. In particular, avoid using anything that might numb your throat, like Strepsils. If you can’t feel your throat properly, you won’t know if your voice is starting to hurt.
  • Shorten your practice times, or move them to the shower. It’s vital to sing every day, but you should reduce down the amount of time you’re singing for. Singing in the shower helps thanks to the steamy environment.
  • Breathing steam can help to open up your airways. Fill a bowl with hot water and then cover your head and the bowl with a towel. You could use a little menthol-based oil like Olbas to help open up your sinuses, release a blocked nose, and reduce pain.
  • Rest your voice. If you can, reduce down how much talking you’re doing. Complete vocal rest is a bit much for most of us, but if you have a cold, but if you can rearrange those meetings, or stay home with a movie, it’ll help protect your voice from damage.

Above all, if singing hurts, stop singing. Don’t push through the pain. Pain is designed to tell us when to stop, and as a singer, it’s vital to listen to our instruments.

If you have a cold for more than ten days or so, it may be worth getting an opinion from your GP. Of course, most colds are viruses, and can’t be treated with medication (antibiotics only work on bacterial infections), but it’s better to rule out more serious problems like chest infections.


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