Riva Capellari

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Located in Brookside in the heart of Kansas City

News of Note Newsletter April 2013

Voice Science and Health Sneezing Season

Although spring arrived in a flurry of snowflakes. blooming flora will  prevail, and  with it, those raging allergies!

What is an allergy? When a “foreign” element invades our bodies, our immune system kicks in. These “strangers” to our bodies, antigens (proteins that encourage inflammation) and allergens, (environmental substances) trigger a reaction from our immune system. In addition to inflammation, other annoying symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, throat clearing, nasal drip, headaches and ear pain are common. More serious symptoms include fever, pulmonary and respiratory problems, even shock.

Allergies are problematic for singers because they affect the respiratory system and precipitate abnormal histamine production. The resulting inflammation and edema in the mucosa of the vocal fold tissues may cause hoarseness and sometimes even aphonic vocal production.

Did you know…there are basically five classes of medications for treating allergies?

Decongestants relieve congestion by reducing the diameter of submucosal vessels, thus limiting the release of fluid to local tissues. Antihistimines negate histamine production, decreasing secretions. Both these medications dry out the vocal fold tissues, necessitating an increase in air pressure for phonation. The mucosa loses its “slippery” factor and is more difficult to move. Antihistimines may also cause drowsiness. Mucolytics thin secretions by adding fluid to them. These meds can be ingested (Robitussin) or inhaled. Topical steroids  alleviate symptoms, but have several negative side effects such as throat irritation, cough and hoarseness. Mast cell stabilizers  treat the source vs. the symptoms, reducing the cell outflow that causes the allergic reaction. Although they work quickly, their effect is short-lived.

Things To Do…Have a cold, laryngitis? The healing process for the vocal fold tissues involves three primary stages: 1) inflammation 2) removal of dead cells and 3) tissue rebuilding. However, the “scarring” phase of healing can be detrimental to phonation. The following vocal exercises help ward off scarring and reduce inflammation while stretching the vocal folds. They should be executed easily in the lower part of the range.

1) humming: mouth open inside for a hooty feel; do not press the lips tightly together

2) tongue/lip trills: requires good airflow and limits the pressure on the vocal folds

3) yawn-sighs: stretches the new fibers, strengthening them for future use

All these exercises are low intensity, low pressure and bring oxygen into the tissue to help prevent scarring and reduce edema.


Vocology: The Science and Practice of Voice Habitation. Ingo Titze & Katherine V. Abbott. National Center for Voice and Speech. 2012.



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