How to Recover a Lost Voice?
January 3, 2014 2:26 PM   Subscribe

I have been sick for a week and have not had a voice for the past 2 days. I've been sick before but haven't lost my voice before. What am I supposed to be doing to be taking care of it? I know I'm supposed to rest it, which I am, but I also would like to soothe it and get it back up and going as soon as possible. This is really quite inconvenient. Also, at what point should I see a doctor? Thank you!
posted by madonna of the unloved to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Throat Coat tea! My high school choir director recommended it to us, and I've been using it ever since. It soothes your throat, helps your voice, and also tastes delicious.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:33 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

For me personally, a week of unabated sickness is the tipping point for going to the doctor. (Three days if there are associated poops or barfs.) So if you're still sick and not feeling any better, I'd make an appointment if I were you.

Things that are soothing on a raw throat when you've lost your voice:

-warm milk and honey (mix up a mug with a couple tablespoons of honey and pop it in the microwave)
-iced apple cider vinegar (tiny sips)
-if you've got a gas stove, roast a lemon wedge over the fire, squirt some honey on it, and suck on it

You can also drape a towel over your head and a bowl of very hot water and just breathe in the steam. Taking long hot baths or showers also works (because you're breathing steam) but the towel and bowl is more efficient.
posted by phunniemee at 2:33 PM on January 3, 2014

I was once advised to gargle with luke-warm green tea. It didn't work for me, maybe it will for you.
posted by colin_l at 2:39 PM on January 3, 2014

Seconding Throat Coat but if you can't choke that down (I disagree that it tastes delicious!), there's a magical ingredient in that tea called slippery elm. Thayer's slippery elm lozenges can also do the trick.

Do NOT whisper, it's actually worse on your voice. Write things down when you need to communicate, if you can. Just give yourself a rest. Get lots of sleep. And -- don't worry about it!

I am a singer and I have this amazing ability to lose my voice whenever I have an important performance. It is really annoying. The slippery elm usually does the trick, but so does relaxing, not worrying about it, hydrating, sleeping and not. talking.

Good luck!

Personally, I would see a doctor if you don't see an improvement with some slippery elm and rest for a day or two.
posted by pazazygeek at 2:40 PM on January 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Unless you have a good reason not to neti pot: neti pot. The squeeze bottle thing works just as well; the pressurized saline spray does NOT. Like, four or five times a day with the neti pot.

High-dose ibuprofen, "six every six," which is to say 600mg every 6 hours. It's an anti-inflammatory, it works as well on your larynx as your knee.

Do NOT whisper. Whispering is actually very hard on your vocal folds -- it holds them forced apart. Imagine doing ballet forms on a sprained ankle! It's like that. If you MUST talk, speak quietly, lightly, and high -- like in a little girl's voice, if you're a woman.

Get plenty of water and plenty of sleep.

When I have lost my voice and I really, really, REALLY need to get it back -- I'm a professional singer -- I take steroids, usually 20-40mg of prednisone. This will give you your voice back but is very unpleasant and has other significant side effects. I wouldn't recommend it under normal circumstances, but as a Hail Mary, it works great.
posted by KathrynT at 2:45 PM on January 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

I work in a business with professional singers, so the advice above is solid. Mostly:

- No talking, no whispering. Zero.
- The throat coat and teas.
- And finally, when absolutely needed - a steroid shot is a quick remedy. That being said, not something you want to rely on often.
posted by shinynewnick at 3:05 PM on January 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Google it. Find it on Amazon. Works like MAGIC!!
posted by jbenben at 3:36 PM on January 3, 2014

I used to work in the music industry, and one day when I had no voice, Greg Dulli told me to use bee propolis. It worked wonderfully.
posted by otters walk among us at 3:49 PM on January 3, 2014

Warm salt water gargles, about as salty as sea water.

Get a teaspoon of real honey, and suck on it.

Slippery elm.

Hot tea.
posted by wwax at 4:17 PM on January 3, 2014

go to the doctor you may have strep.
posted by Jewel98 at 4:46 PM on January 3, 2014

In addition to the no talking, I'd add no caffeine and no alcohol. I make sure to drink large quantities of warm liquids and keep my sleeping environment moist (a humidifier can really help).

Even if you do see a doctor and they give you meds for the underlying issue, ask if doing the above will help speed the healing process.

Feel better!
posted by annaramma at 4:57 PM on January 3, 2014

Look for a substance called friar's balsam. If you can't find it in a local hippie store, you can order it on Amazon. It cures laryngitis if you take it when it's coming on, but can still help now. You put a dropper of it in water and chug until better.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:27 PM on January 3, 2014

Best answer: There's a lot of mythology around the singing world about voices. I used to work as a voice therapist for anyone with a voice problem, including singers.

When you swallow, the food or drink should not come in contact with your vocal cords unless there's something badly wrong. If it does, you'll be coughing and spluttering a lot. So anything that is 'soothing' may or may not work for a sore throat, but it's not going to touch your vocal cords unless it is absorbed into the bloodstream and has some effect that way. The only emergency medicine I've ever seen given to a singer to help their voice recover is a course of steroids to help her get through a week of performance, and I think they were inhaled.

Your voice is not working because (probably) your vocal cords are infected, puffy, swollen and stiff so they can't move and close tightly together as they normally do. So the things that are likely to make them better include:
* Rest, but not complete rest. Do NOT whisper, as mentioned above. It puts strain on your voice and could damage it further. Do talk gently and at low volume when you need to speak. Do not shout or raise your pitch, as those also tend to cause strain. Avoid talking most of the time. If you need to get attention, make a noise in another way (like clapping) rather than raising your voice.
* Avoid non-speech noises that affect your vocal cords, so avoid coughing, clearing your throat, grunting or anything like that. Try to sip water if you need to clear your throat. I try to have a mental image of my vocal cords forcefully banging together every time I cough and that helps me avoid it!
* Drink plenty of water and other non-caffeinated fluids. OK, if you can't avoid caffeine I think the effect will be pretty small. Your vocal cords have a layer of protective mucus (like saliva in your mouth). If that dries out it gets sticky and harder to move. Think of what your mouth feels like when you first wake up in the morning.
* Avoid anything that gives you heartburn
* Anything inhaled will pass over your vocal cords, so inhaling steam (not too hot) is one way of reducing irritation to your vocal cords. They tend to prefer air not to be too dry. In fact, long hot steamy showers will make all the gunk in your nose and throat runnier and easier to get out, and make your voice happier.
* Avoid menthol or eucalyptus - they make you feel like they have cleared out your nose and throat but they do this by irritating the cold receptors. Your brain interprets that as getting more air, therefore less congestion, hurrah! But actually they are irritants.
* Likewise avoid anything in the air that might irritate your throat - spray cleaners, air freshener, smoke, cooking hot chillis.

Of course anything that helps you get better will help your voice - plenty of sleep particularly.

Good luck. Be gentle with your voice when it comes back - you won't have quite the same stamina as normal.
posted by kadia_a at 1:51 AM on January 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

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