Jan 27 2016
One of the most popular posts on this blog is Who Let the Frogs Out? 3 Quick Remedies for Voice Malfunctions. Maybe it’s just the catchy title, but I think the attraction has more to do with the horrible feeling you get if you open your mouth on stage and nothing comes out. The original article was triggered by a question on Twitter. After the popularity of the first, I wrote a second. In those two posts I addressed: what to do if your voice croaks, shakes, tickles, flips, or disappears.
I thought I had about covered it all until one of my readers asked what to do if you have a cough that won’t go away, and you have to speak in front of an audience. That made me think of other situations I had forgotten to address, and, voila! this post was born. Thus, here are suggestions for what to do if you have a cough, get cottonmouth, or can’t seem to clear your throat.
If you have a cough, and you have to speak in front of an audience, you may experience such things as trying to speak and coughing instead, prolonged bouts of coughing when trying to answer a question, or a voice that gradually fades away because of inflamed vocal folds caused by coughing. To take care of this on the spot, breathe through your nose so that the air is warm and filtered and not as likely to irritate your voice, and take several big, low breaths to relax your throat and make it less likely that your folds will spasm, causing more coughing. If that doesn’t work, ask for a glass of water and drink it. Hydration will help. If that doesn’t help, take out a lozenge or a peppermint candy and suck on it. (You do always have one in your pocket for such times, don’t you?) Finally, If nothing else works, you may need to excuse yourself for a minute while you cough up what’s making it hard to breathe or while you get a cup of tea. Warm liquids will help.
If you have cottonmouth you will probably just need to keep talking unless it’s too distracting or embarrassing to do that. If necessary, turn around and pull your lips back down over your teeth (a particularly embarrassing result of cottonmouth!), or put your head down and run your tongue over your teeth. Take a drink of water if you can and calm yourself down by remembering that it’s not about you. Focus on the audience and what you can do for them rather than what they think of you. Cottonmouth is most often caused by the increase in Adrenalin that comes with stage anxiety. Calm down. Have some fun!
If you can’t seem to clear your throat, drink a full glass of water asap. The vocal folds are a low priority organ and when you are dehydrated, the heart and lungs always get the juices before your voice. The answer to clearing your throat is getting enough fluid so that the phlegm you create is thin and runny. Precautions for this include being well-hydrated before going on stage and having enough iodine in your diet. The way most of us get iodine is through iodized salt.
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