Vocal health: managing post-nasal drip

Post-nasal drip can be a singer's nightmare. I have recently sent several students to ear-nose-and-throat (ENT) doctors for allergies issues, which I suspected were causing vocal problems. In both cases, their throats were so swollen from post-nasal drip that their vocal cords couldn't fully close! Below are a few tips on combatting symptoms. 

Use a nasal rinse

Many singers use neti pots, but I recently discovered two options that I like even better:  

Each of these kits comes with squeeze bottle and small packets of salt mixed with soothing aloe. You dissolve the salt in warm distilled water, squirt it up one nostril, and it flows out the other. Repeat on the opposite side.

As with a neti pot, the saline rinse cleans out the nasal passages by loosening and removing debris, allergens, and mucus. However, unlike a neti pot, the bottles gently squirt a stream of solution into the nostril allowing it to pass through quickly. If you hate the feeling of salt water up your nose, you'll want to trade in your neti pot! These kits do the job better and get it done more quickly!

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Use a nasal spray

Your physician may prescribe a steroid nasal spray like Flonase or Nasonex (prescription only) or Nasacort (over-the-counter). Steroid sprays work by reducing inflammation in the nose. They are safe for the vocal cords, as they are non-drying.

If you'd prefer a natural alternative, I like Pretz Nasal Spray. It will help thin out nasal mucus, although it will not flush out the nasal passages as well as a nasal rinse can. However, I consider it a good alternative for people who strongly dislike nasal rinses.

Avoid antihistamines

Antihistamines are generally considered a first line treatment for allergies, and they are used in many allergy pills and nasal sprays. (In sprays, they are sometimes combined with corticosteroids.) However, antihistamines are drying and can therefore pose problem for singers. (Dry vocal cords are particularly prone to injury.) For that reason, singers may be better off using steroid sprays or getting allergy shots. 

Seek treatment

If you are having vocal trouble and you think you may have allergies, seek advice from an ENT who can examine your vocal cords and see how allergies may be affecting them. (See my post on finding a voice doctor.)

Please do not assume that allergies will resolve on their own, and do not attempt to sing through them if they affect the quality of your sound. It may simply not be possible for you to improve your voice until your allergies are under control. If your throat or your vocal cords are swollen, you may end up straining to produce sound. These bad habits can be difficult to correct even after your voice is healthy. So get your allergies treated before bad habits set in!

Disclaimer: This blog post does not constitute medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or services. It simply provides general information for educational purposes only. This information is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and you should not consider it a substitute for a consultation with a physician or other healthcare provider.