I am a singer, and one of the downsides of that particular profession is that when you are sick, life is pretty unbearable. We singers tend to have a deep spiritual and emotional connection to our voices and when we are sick and can’t sing we not only have physical misery, but also emotional, spiritual, and financial misery.
- When I was in school, I didn’t care what I ate or how I took care of myself and I was sick almost every other month for weeks at a time. When I decided to fix my overall health habits, that pattern stopped almost immediately. Now I eat mostly organic, and I read the labels on everything I eat to find alternatives with as few manmade chemicals as possible. If you put crap in your body you are taking away one of its greatest resources for fighting diseases.
- I take a multi vitamin and a mineral supplement every day. The mineral supplement is particularly important because there are some really interesting studies that show that supplementing selenium, magnesium, and chromium in your diet can actually help prevent you from catching viruses.
- I wash my hands obsessively. Most mothers teach their kids to wash their hands before every meal and after going to the bathroom, well I have also started washing my hands every time I return to the house from errands or after being in a group of people. That was actually how I caught my cold this December because we did a performance and every one was hugging on me and spreading their germs. I was so tired that night that I forgot to wash my hands afterward and sure enough I was sick a few days later.
- I keep a hand sanitizer in my car, and use it whenever I get in my car.
- I always wear a scarf around my neck. The winters in Texas are this bizarre bipolar weather that can be cold one minute and hot the next so I am forever are trying to adjust clothing layers to be comfortable. I have found that a scarf is the one accessory that keeps me warmer than anything else, both in winter and in crazy summer air conditioning.
- I alway carry kleenexes. Nothing is asking for germ trouble like not having a kleenex when you need it and trying to find some way to wipe your nose.
- As soon as I feel anything wonky going on in my nose or throat, which is usually a day or two before the real symptoms start, I immediately start using Zycam (or Zinc Losenges) and taking Echinacea/Goldenseal extract. I usually make a cup of green tea and add the recommended dose of the Echinacea with some Agave nectar, Stevia, or local honey to cut the bitterness. I’ll do these two things this morning and evening.
- A day or so later when the real symptoms start I pull out all the stops. I continue to use the Zycam twice a day for the first couple of days of the symptoms, but then stop because it is most effective right at the beginning. I usually use Dayquil and NyQuil for the bulk of the symptoms because I haven’t found a more natural alternative; however, I supplement with several natural products that I get from Whole Foods.
- For a sore throat my best remedy is Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat Tea. It has a pretty strong Licorice flavor, but the slippery elm and other herbs it contains are a godsend to a stressed voice. Also instead of cough drops I use Spicy Apple Ginger Chews available from Whole Foods or at www.gingerpeople.com. These are amazing. First of all they taste fantastic. Second the ginger in them will completely clear your head and bring extra blood flow for healing into your throat with numbing/tingling effect that helps to relieve soreness. Third they won’t dry out your mouth like regular cough drops. I had to sing two weekends of full day rehearsals while I was sick in December and the combination of the Ginger chews and Throat Coat saved my voice, and actually let me be a valuable contributor in spite of my sickness. I also got almost everyone in the San Antonio Chamber Choir addicted to the ginger chews because they work so well.
- In about 3 or 4 days my symptoms will usually start to wane. If I develop a cough I know that I am in the clear. To treat the cough I use Naturade Sugar Free Cough Syrup. Not only does it taste considerable better than normal cough syrups, it also contains Licorice and Horehound which have been treatments for colds from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. I will also continue to use the Dayquil/Nyquil if the cough is really bad because the Naturade is herbal and will not have a drug interaction with the Nyquil.
- If my symptoms start to wane but then come back and my head starts getting really stuffed with very thick mucus I know I am headed for the land of sinus infection unless I can head it off. I stop taking the Dayquil/Nyquil and take Guaifenesin with a lot of water instead to help keep the mucus liquid. I start using a Nasal Spray by NutriBiotic that contains Grape Seed extract as many times a day as the directions allow. Grape Seed extract is a fantastic antibacterial and irrigating the nasal passages helps loosen things up and keep everything moist. Then I take a facial steamer from Walgreens and add water and a couple of drops of Tea Tree oil and inhale the vapor every day for at least 15 minutes. Tea Tree oil is another great antibacterial agent, and breathing it in with hot steam clears my head and provides a tremendous amount of relief.
By doing this regime, I was able to keep my December cold from becoming a sinus infection and also maintain my voice well enough that I could sing through it without hurting myself.