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Cloudy Days

Friday Focus: Winter is Coming, or how to survive the transition into Fall and Winter.

As the days start to become noticeably shorter and the nights noticeably cooler we confront the end of our carefree Summer voice use.  For me, Fall heralds the beginning of an intense allergy season followed by the months of cold, dry air.  So as I brace myself for the coming storm, I wanted to share some of how I do that.

Visit the team
Fall is when I have a regular check-in with my Laryngologist to make sure everything looks healthy.  I try to get in before the allergies go into bloom so my appointment is scheduled for a week or so from now.  Which meant a little planning (the appointment was booked in May).

I also check in with my voice teacher.  I travel quite a bit for singing, training, and vacation in the Summer so I haven’t seen my beloved teacher for a few months.  While some professionals see their teachers just a few times per year, I like to take a lesson every month during the “academic” year.  Actually, if she lived in the same state as I do, I’d likely take a bi-weekly lesson, but alas.

I also tend to get a checkup with my general MD just to check in on medications, allergies and how the instrument as a whole seems to be holding up.

Get serious about Self Care
This is the time of the year that most challenges my immune system, so I am equally aggressive about building it up.

Sleep – I need 8 hours to be healthy.  Most people need more sleep than they think and far more than they are getting.   Know your number and do not play with making sure your body can do its fullest reset, rehabilitation.

Hydration – When it is hot, hydration is easy but sometimes as the temperature descends so does our fluid intake.  Now is the time to increase the amount of water you are consuming especially in food.  Up your intake of fruits and vegetables.

Exercise – I hate exercising.  Despise it.  But I don’t mind dance classes so I do more of those to keep my body toned as it wants to shut down for the winter.

Deal with the symptoms as they come
My first encounter of Fall will be with my allergies.  The biggest issue for me is keeping inflammation at bay.  You’ll recall that check-in with my laryngologist?  It is also when I make sure I can still take Zyrtec for allergy symptoms or whether something else is better right now.  This is important because all of this stuff is available over the counter now so we can all self-medicate but it doesn’t necessarily mean our vocal tract is on board with our choice of treatment.  I am not a doctor, so I check-in with one before I decide something is “safe.”

I also do a few “natural” remedy supports for my allergies such as using a neti-pot to irrigate my sinuses pretty regularly and also looking for natural doses of Quercetin.  Quercetin is a plant pigment that naturally occurs in green tea, red wine, onions, apples, and some berries.  There are studies that indicate its anti-inflammatory properties can be good supports for allergies and asthma (I have both).  I do not take the pill formulations on the market simply because there isn’t enough data on what an appropriate dosage is for the concentrated version.   There are also many counter-indications for Quercetin based on medications or conditions you may have so don’t take anything just because it works for a random internet voice teacher.  I’m still not a doctor. A Naturopathic doctor could be a better resource if you are curious about this or any other natural remedy.

The dreaded Cold and Flu Season
My first challenge is how to stay warm enough as it gets cold and still get enough fresh (freezing) air.  The fact is that our sealed in and efficiently heated spaces are wonderful incubators for every virus and bacteria that arrives there.  So, I struggle with keeping my body warm but making sure I get enough outside air.  I’d love to hear your favorite ways to deal with this so please leave them in the comments.

Then, having to decide whether or not to get a flu shot.  I haven’t in a while for a number of reasons but can’t recommend that for everyone.  Do your own research and decide what is right for you, maybe even after chatting with your doctor (notice a trend here?).

Even with a flu shot on board, you may get sick.  Your best remedy is also the best line of defense.  Getting enough sleep, hydration, and maintaining the best possible health (through diet and some sort of movement) will continue to serve you even if something crashes your defenses.  My regular remedies if I do get sick are pretty low tech.  I rest, eat, and drink well.  If my throat is actually sore I go the route of home remedy. These are more palliative than curative though a few may help with fighting viral load, there just isn’t enough data on it.

  1.  Warm salt water gargle (1/4 Tsp salt and 1/4 Tsp baking soda in a glass of warm water).  Gargle small amounts until the solution is used up
  2.  Steam – Boil water and inhale the steam for 5-15 minutes being careful not to get too close to prevent burning.
  3.  Hot Toddy (4 oz of hot water, 1 Tsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp of honey.  Some swear by the addition of 2 oz of whiskey or bourbon but it isn’t necessary, in my opinion).  Drink slowly.
  4.  Apple Cider Vinegar (a cup of very warm water, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp honey).  Drink while still warm.
  5.  Drink tea (especially ginger and chamomile) with or without honey.
  6. I don’t let a cough go on and on.  I use honey and other cough suppressants unless I have junk in my lungs.  Then you just have to cough.
  7.  Try to rest your voice as much as possible.

If my sore throat is hanging on for more than a week, or if it is actually painful, I get into the doctor or NP to make sure my virus isn’t actually something that requires intervention.  Please see my previous vocal health posts for more information on vocal health and care.

I am pretty serious about letting my body do its thing with many supports in place to help it work.  That said, I am pretty healthy and have no serious medical conditions.  You need to know how your system works and know when to lean on a medical professional. I wish you a healthy Fall and transition into Winter.

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