Riva Capellari

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Located in Brookside in the heart of Kansas City

Allergies and Age

Here Comes Spring – And Allergies

1 in 5 Americans has allergies. An allergy is a specific and abnormal response to a substance. Symptoms include upper and lower respiratory complaints, nasal congestion, sneezing, watery, itchy eyes, throat soreness, postnasal drip that causes throat clearing, pressure in the ears, headache and fatigue. Allergies can turn into chronic sinusitis and exacerbate asthma. Although spring is a big allergy season, some people suffer from allergies all year round.

Treatment can involve a topical nasal steroid which relieves nasal and pharyngeal irritation, but doesn’t help with watery, itchy eyes. They can be partnered with topical ocular preparations. A common choice of treatment, oral antihistamines tend to dry the mucosal surfaces of the airway. To counter this, there are products such as Robitussin or Humibid that contain guaifenesin, an agent that thins and liquefies mucus. Sometimes antihistamines are coupled with decongestants. Non-drowsy decongestants are popular, but they can cause mild stimulation.

Use of inhaled steroids doesn’t reduce vocal fold edema (swelling). And some research has shown that long term use of these steroids can cause dysphonia (disfunctional speech).

Allergies can create big problems for singers. Thickened secretions trigger heavy throat clearing which in turn can result in more swelling of the mucosal layer of the vocal fold. Allergic reactions release histamine producing tissue inflammation. This, along with the drying effect of oral antihistamines, can result in more effortful singing, possibly causing the singer to push and strain. If continued, this will bring on vocal fatigue, voice breaks and more swelling.

In addition to these treatments, you can try to rid your environment of things like dust and mildew that might trigger an allergy. Even limiting your time outside during the worst of the season may help.

Allergies are part of spring fever, but proper treatment and careful control of your environment will help alleviate some of the suffering.
Vocal Health and Pedagogy; Robert Sataloff, MD, DMA. Singular Publishing, 1998.

Aches and Pains!!!

Finally, I was able to do some yard work only to experience the forgotten aches and pains that often accompany that seasonal activity. Like our bodies, our voices also experience some “growing old pains”.

Physical changes in our body can result in acoustical changes in our voice. Decreased respiratory function and muscle mass along with a reduction in speed and frequency of motor nerve conduction, can lead to breathiness and vocal roughness because of inefficient vocal fold closure. Age also brings about hormonal changes in both sexes. This, coupled with the shortening of vocal fold tissues, contributes to a higher speaking pitch for older men and a need for greater air flow pressure to vibrate the vocal folds. Women’s voices tend to drop in pitch after menopause (there is a reason for all those women tenors in church choirs!) and as in men’s voices, muscular atrophy may result in more effortful vocal production.

However, all is not lost! Just like regular exercise keeps our bodies in shape, vocal warms ups and proper voice care can not only result in vocal longevity, but help in maintaining a strong and healthy voice throughout our life time.
Bodymind and Voice: Foundations of Voice Education. Leon Thurman and Graham Welch, eds. The VoiceCare Network.

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