The Good, The Bad, And The "Mucus-y" - A Seasonal Allergy Guide For Singers

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 by Thomas, Michele | Vocal Health

by Michele Thomas

Now a days, just about everyone who walks into my voice studio suffers from seasonal allergies and/or chronic upper respiratory conditions.  Reactions to pollen, dander, dust as a result of asthma, allergies and sinusitis are commonplace; with symptoms running any where from mild to very severe.    

But for singers, any one of these issues can affect the functioning of our voice as they can have a negative impact on our vocal cords, vocal membranes and our ease of breathing.

Why? Because the inside of vocal mechanism requires a certain type of environment to run optimally.  Here's the least you need to know about that environment and how to best keep it working for you.

THE GOOD - Moisture In The Throat 

Your voice needs moisture! Seems pretty obvious, right?  But moisture within the throat requires more than an occasional glass of water to "wet the whistle".  If the body is dehydrated, then the vocal cords and vocal muscles are dehydrated.  Hydration is what provides an ongoing state of moisture within the throat and promotes supple and flexible vocal muscles, which are best for singing and speaking at an optimal level. In other words, you must fully hydrated well before you sing in order to ensure that your vocal muscles are in a good state to perform.  Ideally, singers need to keep hydrating their bodies whether or not they are singing.  

What's some great ways to get hydrated and stay hydrated?

Water, water, water! (Duh!)

But there are other hidden tricks to staying hydrated that make it easy to do.  Water packed foods such as cucumbers, lettuce, melons, pineapples, grapes and berries up your liquid intake big time. Make it even easier by including water packed foods in meals that you can eat readily such as smoothies, juices (from juicers) and salads.

But also consider the foods and beverages that can sometimes inhibit hydration such as salt and caffeine.  In and of themselves, salt and caffeine aren't horrible, but too much of these substances (and it really doesn't take very much) and you can defeat your efforts to stay in a hydrated state; so keep them to a bare minimum  for the sake of your voice. 

THE BAD - Excess Dryness & Mucus In The Throat  

Even with proper hydration, we can encounter other problems within the environment of our throats that are due to outside factors; many of which may be out of our control. It goes without saying that changes in the seasons and extreme weather conditions affect our immediate environment - both outside in nature and inside the shelter of our homes and buildings.  Singers not only face potential allergens both outdoors and indoors, but extreme temperature changes coming from air conditioners or dry heat affect our coming and going all year round.  Singers can be in a constant state of influx as they breathe in dry air from any given environment.  Dryness will leave the delicate vocal cords and vocal membranes in a weakened state and even more susceptible to inflammation that can cause irritation and strain while singing.

And then let's not forget the issue of mucus.  (Yes, it's a gross but necessary subject!)

Mucus can be good for the body.  And when it's good, we hardly notice it because it's thin, "liquid-y" and readily helping to protect our immune system.  But when it's bad, it's thick and slow moving due to the fact that it's in overdrive as it's fighting something in our bodies that is already out of balance. (i.e., dehydration, allergies and/or illness)…  For singers, the result is too much mucus or phlegm weighing down the vocal folds and obstructing the vocal tract, causing increased strain of the muscles and more static in the tone production. Also, like dryness, mucus can cause irritation and strain while singing.


Singers have to be vigilant about the causes of irritation and strain in the their voices.  Our throats and bodies are often vulnerable to our outer environment which can leave even the best trained singer susceptible to illness, vocal fatigue, hoarseness and even loss of voice by laryngitis.  So it's smart to equip ourselves with a few extra tools to help our voices in times of need.

Below are some of my personal recommendations for vocal products according to the symptoms they address:

For throat irritation from dryness  

- Grether's Pastilles

- Vocal-Eze Throat Spray

- Halls Breezers - Pectin Throat Drops

For throat irritation from excess mucus   

- Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat Tea

- Thayers Slippery Elm Lozenges

- Alkalol Mucus Solvent and Cleaner

This is just a short list of products that are great for singing and speaking professionals. They are my own personal suggestions, as I myself have used these products to great satisfaction and feel very confident in their quality and effectiveness. However, as with all things in life, use your common sense. I am not a doctor, and none of these products are promised to be a fail-safe remedy or the ultimate cure to any disease, so if you are experiencing more serious vocal health issues or have a bad reaction to any of these products, immediately contact a health professional and go have yourself checked out.

If you have questions of which products might be best for you, send us an email at to get more personalized recommendations for your singing voice!