The Singer’s Guide to Surviving Sickness

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you’ll have seen my tirade of tweets about the agony of having a throat and chest infection.

I realise I’m more dramatic than the average person, but I think, as singers, once something concerns our throats we get a little hysterical. (Well… I do, anyway!) So I thought I would put together my guide to recovering from a cold or flu.

Seek Medical Advice

This is so important. Even if you’re nearly positive it’s just a flu and you can’t take antibiotics, it’s always better to be looked at by a doctor. As singers, our throats are so important that any time my throat gets painful I see my doctor. If you have a bacterial infection like strep throat you will need antibiotics.

Sleep / Rest

When you get sick, it’s your body’s way of telling you that you need to treat it better and to rest. I know I always seem to get sick when I’ve been really busy for a long time without taking proper breaks for my body to recover. When I get the flu, I will always go straight into denial and try to do everything as normal, and then end up more sick than I probably would have been if I had just acknowledged I wasn’t well and rested for a day. So rest is definitely a top priority!

Steam, steam, steam!

I always steam when I’m feeling sick. You can buy a steamer from most pharmacies, and sometimes I’ll add one or two drops (no more!) of Eucalyptus oil if I’m feel very congested. I find it easier to use steamers, but otherwise you can use the traditional method of putting your head over a bowl of boiling water with a towel over your head. Or take really hot showers at least twice a day and breathe in the steam. This is also great for opening up your airways if your cold / flu is making it difficult to breathe.

Lemon, honey & slippery elm

What a strange heading that is! One of the best ways to relieve a sore throat for me is to make some herbal tea (preferably lemon!) and stir a spoonful of manuka honey into it. You can also buy slippery elm capsules in Holland & Barrett and drop them into your tea. Slippery elm is used by Susan Graham (world-class mezzo-soprano!) so if it’s good enough for Susan then it’s good enough for me! Keep hydrated too with lots of herbal tea and water, and try to keep caffeine to an absolute minimum.

Vocal Rest

Okay, something that singers do a lot when they’re sick is go on vocal rest. This means no singing, and very little (if any) speaking. When I get a throat infection or a flu that causes my throat to be sore, I will go on complete vocal rest for at least a day. Because I can’t speak, I bought a small A4 whiteboard and markers from Amazon and use that for when I really need to communicate with people. Thanks to the wonder that is technology, there’s also texting, iMessaging, Facebook Messenger, DMs and emails. So there’s no excuse to use your voice at all!


When I get sick, I like to take Vitamin C and Zinc tablets. This will help your immune system fight the infection and aid your body’s natural recovery. I’ll also start taking a tonic or multivitamin.

Those are my top tips to surviving sickness using techniques I’ve picked up on over the years. What are some of your favourite home remedies and tips? Let me know!!


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