How to Sing With a Cold
Five all natural remedies to help you keep on singing, even if you’re blocked up and have a sore throat.
Colds, phlegm and mucus are annoying at best when it comes to the world of singing. At worst, they can prevent you from singing at all or make you sound nasal and make your voice crack. There’s a whole lot of badness involved when it comes to battling with these nasties but sometimes you still have to sing even if you’re struggling with the big lurgy.
So what can you do about it? If you suffer from a blocked nose, sinusitis, excess phlegm or you have to keep coughing when you’re singing, then today’s video is for you.
I give you 5 all natural remedies to help you clear up phlegm, and keep singing even if you have a cold.
1. Steam With Eucalyptus Oil
I bet your Grandmother used to tell you about this old time remedy. Well, she was right! It still works a treat. Simply fill a pot with boiling water from the kettle, place a towel over your head and lean over the steam breathing in through your nose and mouth.
Super charge it by adding three drops of Eucalyptus Oil to the water. Don’t add too much though otherwise the vapour will sting your eyes and make sure you don’t put your face too close to the steam otherwise you’ll burn yourself.
Then breathe in the goodness.
Here’s a video on how to steam where I walk you through the process.
2. Use A Nasal Rinse
Some people might say ‘OMG I’m not doing that’ but if you suffer from a blocked nose, have cold, or post nasal drip, or frequently get sinusitis like I do then this will help you so much.
You don’t need to get fancy with it. I use a kit that I got from the pharmacy which cost a tiny $12 . You usually get a soft plastic bottle and some satchets containing a solution that prepares the water so it doesn’t hurt when it goes up your nose. Make sure you only use pre-boiled or purified water to fill up the bottle so there are no nasty bacterial lurking in the water.
Once you have filled up your bottle and popped in the solution, I like to zap it in the microwave for around 8 seconds to make it warmer. Then bending over the sink, you basically stick the bottle’s nozzle into one nostril and squeeze. The water will go up into your nasal cavity and come back out the other nostril… often bringing gunk with it. Totally gross… but works a treat.
I do this regularly during spring because I suffer from such bad sinusitis. If you have a cold then do it twice daily leading up to a performance. Once in the morning before you wake up, once in the evening before you go to bed and you will notice a difference.
3. Increase Your Fluids
Whether you’re someone who drinks enough water daily or not, its a good idea to increase your fluid intake when you’re trying to get your voice back in shape for singing.
Taking a big gulp of water can do wonders for your voice regardless of if you’re sick but its even more important, especially if you’re starting to vocalise and get back into your practice and you can still feel a bit of a sore throat going on.
Many professional singers are known to drink (a shit load) of water inbetween each take during a recording sesh so make sure you’re getting more that your 8 glasses a day.
I also like drinking Green Tea (Matcha) or while I’m singing I go for Peppermint or Licorice Root Tea which soothes a sore throat. If I have to do a gig and I have a sore throat, I take a flask of Licorice Root Tea with me and sip it inbetween songs.
More reading: Best and Worst Drinks for Singers
4. Drink Olive Leaf Extract
My number one go-to for boosting my immunity when I feel I either have a cold coming on is Olive Leaf Extract. It reduces the severity of a cold if you take it when you feel like your cold is about to start. (Then keep taking it during your cold)
You can’t take it continuously because after a while your body gets used to it and it loses its efficacy, but if taken only when needed for a couple of weeks Olive Leaf Extract really helps. Unfortunately, it doesn’t taste very nice. It’s bitter like a raw olive.
Also, if you’re not allergic to bees try Propolis. Gargle with it to reduce a sore throat and you can drink it afterwards. It smells absolutely foul but it works wonders.
5. Stretch and Vocalise
Once you feel your cold lifting and you’re ready to start singing again, remember to prep your body for singing first and do some stretches. If you’ve been in bed for longer than usual your muscle will most likely have become tight so stretch out your rib cage and muscles surrounding your diaphragm.
Then begin to softly hum. Don’t increase your volume too much at this stage, just lightly hum along to your favourite songs, sipping herbal tea or water to keep your throat hydrated.
Stop if you feel pain and give yourself time to rest, but if you feel ok keep on singing until you feel your voice fatiguing. Don’t push yourself too hard at this stage and give yourself a good few practice sessions to allow your voice to get back to its former glory.
Two Weirdly Wonderful Natural Remedies For Singing With A Cold
1. Use Eucalyptus Oil on the soles of your feet
This is a weird one, ever weirder than the nasal rinsing. Put Eucalyptus oil on the soles of your feet and cover them with socks before you go to sleep. The soles of your feet absorb oil and it will help you to breathe easier and keep your nose clear. It seriously works.
Sometimes you can even taste the Eucalyptus Oil in your mouth, even if you’ve just put it on your feet. It’s bizzare, and yet… so refreshing.
You can also use Tiger Balm or Vics Vapour Rub if you need to.
2. Steer clear of antibiotics
Antibiotics disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in your gut and as a result you can make your body more susceptible to bad bacteria; making your body fight it off which means more phlegm and sore throats. If you have to take an antibiotic, make sure you take a good quality probiotic later in the day.
TIP: Don’t take them at the same time because the antibiotic will just kill all the good bacteria. So if you take the antibiotic in the morning, take the probiotic in the evening.)
I recommend taking a probiotic daily to keep your gut health in tip top condition.
More reading: Home Remedies To Help You Sing Better
Five Surprising Benefits Of Singing
Now I’d love to hear from you.
Do you have any natural remedies you can add to this list? If you do, please let me know in the comments below.
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Thanks for the tips for a cold. Can’t wait to try them.
You’re welcome! I hope they help 🙂
Hi I use a induction potable stove to heat the water . Your suggestion to use oils I will now add to my repertoire. Ido use hydrogen peroxide also Thanks a bunch. Love DonD
Thanks, Im gonna try the steam tent,Im all congested in my chest and Im in a show friday.
Help!!! I have a concert tomorrow and I have a solo and I have a really bad cold…what should I do
Warm tea and lemon, keep hanky close and spit all phlegm in it DO NOT CLEAR YOUR THROAT the normal hacking way.Know your limits and plow thru, the show must go on.Dont advertise you have the cold unless asked, be a trooper.Good Luck.
I have a live recording on sat 10/38/17 at 7:00pm and the sinus is clogged and voice is cracking from thick flem
Hi I’m from Africa,, Kenya… I’ll definitely try your tips,thank you.
can apple cider vinegar mixed with water drink help with mucus phelgm
Thank you so much for the tips. I recently auditioned for a musical and got a part. For our first practice today we had to each perform a solo so they could know if we were soprano 1, soprano 2, or alto. (I got soprano 1… yay!)But the only problem is, I have a very bad cold and my first reaction was, “oh my goodness. I have a terrible cold, I have to get up and do a solo on how high I can sing. How is this going to work?” The first thing I did when I got home was search up what to do in this situation, then I came across this. Thank you so much it will really help!
I have a lot of mucus from my sinus which drain into my lungs causing me to cough a lot to clear it, I can carry a tune but have a lot of
cracking so I hope this tip will help me I will let you know.
i am going through the same thing. i want to try steaming as i have just read now…
I did not have to worry about any of this stuff when I was younger. When I got up to sing, I just breezed through it, ( tenor). But something happened…I grew older and now I have to be concerned about what I’m asked to sing, and whether or not I’ll have the range to handle it. Gravity is a pain in the behind!
OMG thank you soo much I’m gonna try some of these I have my play starting Thursday and I have a main part.
Thanks for the advice! I have performances for a week starting on Sunday, and I’ve got some terrible stuff going on in my sinuses!
Thank you so much ,I will give it a try and get back to you soon..
Let me know how you go! 🙂
I have a big singing gig for Valentines Day this weekend. I’ll try the steam later when I get home tonight. No eucalyptus but I have vix & tiger for feet. Drainage down the back of the throat is heavy today and causes my voice to crack.
I will try.
I am just 58 years old and a pastor, lives in Nigeria. my problem started some 5 years ago now I find it difficult to preach for my congregation to hear me well. my voice cracks and my congregation finds it difficult to hear me. but I noticed that when it happens, I have to be struggling to clear the phlegm in my throat for my voice to come up. It is embarrassing my calling please what can I do? thanks and God bless you.
Thanks for the tips, I hope they will work because I’m thinking of auditioning for my schools talent show next week.
In Australia, the Nature’s Own brand makes Garlic, C and Horseradish tablets for clearing up congestion when you have a cold. If your sense of taste is dull, you can even suck them. They clear the phlegm out of your throat incredibly well.
I gargle with Vodka & it seems cut down on the phlegm and makes my voice clearer in the higher ranges
You’re welcome 🙂
Thank U. Can’t wait to try your remedies.
I have the worst sinus in the world. And I am a singer having trouble getting my voice back in shape. When I start singing i go flat my volume is weak and my throught filks like its full of phlegm alot will warm water fix this.
If your sinuses are really bad, maybe have a chat with your doctor about solutions. 🙂
In a single ‘Google’ search to deal with this worse than irritating problem affecting singing tone, volume etc it’s WONDERful to come across all your helpful information in time for gig tomorrow … thank you so very much for troubling to share your tips.
With best wishes from deepest Devon, UK (united for how much longer?!)
I am not a pro singer just karaoke but I have been told that I sing very well the sinus problem has let me down many times so I will try your ideas and see what happens
Thank you so much…I am gonna try the tent right now..i have my voice over test in two hours..
The old belief that milk increases mucus production is a myth. Go look at some of the research that has been done. A lot of people say it, even many doctors (who are not immune to myths and urban legends), but those who have actually done their research say otherwise. I’m not suggesting that anyone guzzle a gallon before singing, and I found these tips very useful, I just wanted to point out that one discrepancy.
It is a well known -fact- not myth. But go ahead and drink a glass before and all the best for your poor throat.
My ex in dallas told me that when I drink milk it makes my breath bad and only on those days. I also am pleghmy which doesn’t help with the halitosis
Thank you! Nicola for the fantastic tips!! I am in our Church choir, and I constantly have issues with phglem, and clearing my throat. We have a Christmas musical on the 4th of Dec, and this will help me prepare and be ready. God Bless You!!!!
Best of luck with the musical!! 🙂
Hi Nicola, I had just watched your clip on some remedies for clearing phlegm from the throat. I just want to thank you for sharing your knowledge. I just turned 50 years old this year and I have Crohn’s disease which plays a big role in screwing up my vocals. I was 124 pounds last year and truly believed I was going to die. God gave me another chance. I had surgery done and I’ve been trying to eat right and exercise. I’m doing much better I’m 175 pounds. All my life I’ve heard that I should sing for a band. But it was the times that they heard me that my voice was fine. But more often then not it isn’t fine. It’s really tough because now I feel better bodily wise, but I still have problems with my throat. Now that I have heard your story I am hopeful that even with my issues I may be able to beat them enough to get out there and do it. God has given me a talent that I really want to share. I have a great range. I credit some of that to listening and singing to my first performer in concert I had seen with my mom and dad. It was Johnny Mathis. Now I’m into rock and roll as well as other genres, but I have to say I’d go see Johnny again! That my friend is a talented musician. My goal is to reach 100 years old, so I have 50 more years to play with, which I think is plenty of time to accomplish some of my singing dreams. Thanks again for helping others.
These are great tips for speakers, too!
First two and the last one are the best to try. If a doctor prescribes antibiotics please take them trust me it will be alot harder to sing when you are sick. Great video highly recomended eucalyptus oil that stuff works wonders.
Thanks for the great tips! I love your website. It’s truly a Singer’s Secret “place”. About nasal douche, where do you get “special nasal water preparing sachet”? at drugstore? – Jackie
Yep – from the pharmacy. I like NeilMed or there’s ‘Flo’ and a bunch of other ones.
I have an audition in two days and I have a really bad cold so I’m going to try the stream tent is that the best way?
my grandma used to sing all the time, and when she was sick, she would mix half apple cider vinager and half honey. stir and take 1T every hour or two. it works like a charm. especially if you have to sing!!
I have something thick in the lungs which isnt coming out and is preventing me from singing with a clear throat please help
Can I use eucalyptus lotion?
I’d give it a try, the Eucalyptus will be absorbed into the skin and the body will send it where it is needed most. I often do that with essential oils, they take milliseconds to get where they are going according to recent studies. Best wishes.
I caught a cold last Saturday from the elimination round of the karaoke contest I’m in, the contestants with colds didn’t get through but I’m pretty sure with my low immune system that I’m the only one of the 5 who did get thru to the following week to have caught it! Today is headaches and deep cough as well as sniffles and red watery eyes. I went and benylin right before I read this thread – it has phenolphedrine or whatever in it! But it worked better than buckley’s night! I can’t reach the high notes in volume or chest voice without coughing! My lung doc says to puff my steroid puffer 15 mins before I sing.. I’m overheating my body in bath in hopes that invoking a fever of 100.4 would help! I caught this on sat nite and it set in on Tuesday and got worse Wednesday and bad headaches Thursday! I have one DayQuil left that imma save for Saturday since it doesn’t have that ingredient! I use fisherman friends but no zinc in those!
I actually bought a small 6 by 6 foot tent that I set up in my living room with a vaporizer and sit in there like I’m in a sweat lodge. It really helps. If no one is home, strip down and steam the whole body. And yes, pure essential oils are great.
Also, Paul McCartney say’s he likes gargling salt water and breathing in steam like many mentioned before the concert.
Hello. I’m able to sing the version of “Science Fiction: Double Feature” sung by Santana for “The Glee Horror Picture Show” and when my sinuses drain,it’s more difficult to sing the high notes loudly than when my throat is clear. How can I fix this little dilemma?
I tried using a humidifier but it had no effect. It made me cough even worse, and I KNOW I don’t have strep throat, but it seems the more steam I try to use on my lungs, and vapo rub isn’t helping. What SHOULD I use?
I’m convinced there are times when no tip, remedy or anything will help very much, if at all. I’m getting over a bad bout of sinusitis/bronchitis that has left me with laryngitis. NOTHING seems to be helping and I have 6 concerts over the next 7 days starting tomorrow.
I sometimes sing 12 hours over the weekends as a musician and my voice gets very deep and clear indicating my vocal chords are irritated. I like my voice better when it gets lots of exercize. My Cure? Eat Pickles! LOL
Seriously, the salt in the Pickle juice helps soothe the vocal chords. I also drink cool water to soothe them, never cold or icy as that will contract your vocal chords and never too hot.
My mother used to sing a lot and she recommended a tiny sip of whiskey and lemon – once when you set out for the gig and once just before singing. We both hate whiskey but she says it relaxes the vocal chords and clears the phlegm. In addition to all the other tips here I am going to try it.
Hi, thanks for sharing the tips. I lost my voice through sore throat which I didn’t treat on time in year 2010. I am a chorister so I visited a clinic and was treated but my voice has never been the same. I am a soprano singer but my voice is usually cracked and I speak with baritone voice. Any advice on how to get my voice back would do. Thanks.
Thank you! I’m no pro by a loooong shot, but I sing anyway because I want to. LOL. I have a lot of trouble with congestion.