~ 052810 How to Protect Your Voice

Daily Press

Singers aren't the only people who struggle with vocal problems. Here are tips from doctors on keeping your voice healthy and strong:

Don't strain. If your voice sounds hoarse or raspy, limit talking until it returns to normal. Avoid trying to yell over background noise and use a microphone when speaking in larger settings.

Avoid cigarette smoke. Smoke not only puts you at risk for throat cancer, it dries out your vocal cords.

Breathe right. Inhale deeply from your diaphragm the muscle that separates your chest and abdomen to reduce strain on your voice box. Your stomach should push in and out as you breathe.

Don't cradle phones. Tilting your head toward your shoulder will strain muscles in the neck.

Don't gargle with mouthwash. Rinses that contain alcohol or other chemicals can irritate vocal cords and surrounding mucus membranes. If you need to gargle, use warm water mixed with salt or baking soda.

Exercise and eat right. Good muscle tone and posture promotes good breathing, which in turn protects your voice box. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains have several types of vitamins that help keep mucus membranes in the throat healthy.

Limit damaging food and drink. Too much alcohol and caffeine dry out throat tissues, while spicy foods increase the production of stomach acids that may travel to the throat. Drink plenty of water.

See a doctor if needed. If your voice is consistently hoarse or becomes noticeably deeper, or if you're straining to talk, have frequent sore throats or are constantly clearing your throat, consult an otolaryngologist (a specialist in the ears, nose and throat). Problems can include growths cancerous and non-cancerous acid reflux and upper respiratory infections.

(c) 2010, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.).

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