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    Staying Healthy in Cold & Flu Season

    John Melley - Monday, January 12, 2009

    If you’re in Voice Over and use your voice to earn money and entertain people, taking care of it should be your number one priority. I’ve lost out on voice gigs and had to skip auditions due to colds and laryngitis. As a voice talent, nothing is more frustrating. Who knows the lost opportunity as a result of not having a chance at being cast for a part?

    The best thing you can do for your voice is to drink plenty of water. Keeping hydrated is critical to keeping your voice in good working order. Try to stay away from drinks with a lot of sugar in them as it coats the vocal folds and they have to work just a little harder. This extra effort is multiplied over the course of a day and your voice can tire out more quickly. Also minimize your intake of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, as they can dehydrate you.

    Some say you need to have an intolerance for dairy to have it affect you, but I have found that milk, cream and other dairy products increase and thicken mucous. I find it’s best to minimize my intake of these items at least a few hours before a voice session.

    You should also get plenty of rest. Tension and fatigue can be heard in the voice. Over the course of the day we naturally get tense in response to various events and activities. Even mundane tasks add tension throughout the day. This tension is felt throughout the body, your neck and shoulders. It affects your ability to breathe and translates into tension in your vocal folds affecting the quality and pitch of your voice. Relaxation exercises will help with this.

    Before I share my tips on preventing colds, I need to prevent a dumb lawsuit by saying I am NOT a doctor. I am a Voice Actor and producer. These are things I do to prevent and shorten colds. I am NOT giving medical advise. I am sharing what I do with you. If you are under the care of a doctor for any condition, please consult them prior to taking anything that may adversely impact your health or condition.

    Having said that, here are some things I do to minimize my risk of getting sick. As I mentioned before I drink plenty of water. I probably drink about 2 and a half liters a day. I also get sufficient rest and exercise fairly regularly. I don’t drink any coffee or caffeine of any kind. I stay away from soda but I drink carbonated water like it’s going out of style.

    I wash my hands regularly. People don’t think about where their hands have been when they shake hands with you. I remember showing up for a voice session during the crew’s lunch break and one of the engineers was eating his lunch. As I was being introduced to him he put down his sandwich and licked the tips of about 3 or 4 of his fingers and stuck out his hand to shake mine. I can remember the dialogue playing inside my head, “Oh my God, he’s just licked his fingers and now I’m going to have to shake those hands. How am I going to get out of this?” I pretty much said “Aw, don’t get up. I’m interrupting your lunch. Nice to meet you.” It worked.
    I really try to make a habit of not touching my face with my hands, or eating without washing my hands first. If I have to rub my eyes I avoid using my fingers and try to use the back of my hand or forearm. I always open bathroom doors with a paper towel in my hand and will usually head straight to the restroom or a sink to wash my hands after I’ve shaken hands with several people. Also wash your hands after tying your shoes. Just think about what those laces and shoes have been tromping through all day.

    If you’re traveling, wipe down the telephone and remote control for the TV with a alcohol-wipe, or other similar product. They’re never cleaned by hotel staff and they’re covered with germs. I never put a phone receiver directly against my mouth or chin. I also frequently wipe down my computer keyboard and mouse if I know others have been using it.

    You may think I’m a bit paranoid, but I don’t need the hassle of getting sick. It puts me out of business for about a week!

    You should consult your doctor or other care-giver before taking any medication, but other things I do to minimize my risk of getting a cold is to take a multi-vitamin, a B-Complex vitamin and vitamin C. I also take a Zinc lozenge at the first sign of a sniffle and have found them to be most effective in keeping colds away.

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