Monday, July 28, 2014

Allergies and Singing in Summer! Do you feel like you 'suddenly have allergies'? Is it affecting your singing?

"I am sick again" or "Is it me or are allergies just awful this year?"  I keep hearing these questions from my students in voice lessons.  Many don't think they have allergies because they have not had them before.  Maybe they are just more sensitive to allergic tendencies now that they are singing regularly and depend on their bodies as their instruments.  Others know they do and for some reason the way they have dealt with them in the past is not working this year.

I was astonished when I read an article in my May 2014 Self Magazine entitled "Are These Making You Sick?".  I too have been feeling my allergies act up and actively starting using a Neti Pot to help combat my symptoms, but here was actually proof that we are not nuts!  Skyrocketing allergen levels may be to blame.  Why?

Climate conditions have changed making plants like ragweed pollinate earlier and die later according to Leonard Bielory, MD, professor at Rutgers University.  If pollen is being produced earlier and last longer, there is more time for it to bug you.

Think about all of the severe types of weather we have encountered in the last couple of years:  in the Northeast we have had many severe thunderstorms, a weird hail storm, an extremely cold and wet winter, Superstorm Sandy last summer, the weather abnormalities keep adding up. In the case of Sandy, Dr. Bielory says "the storm saturated the ground and provided extra nutrients that acted like steroids on many pollen-bearing plants."

In cities, now urban planners are adding trees to the environment which shed lots of pollen.

In summary, more (quantity and types) of pollen are being added to the environment for longer periods of time so you may find yourself with itchy eyes, running nose, and congestion (the number of seasonal allergy sufferers has DOUBLED in the last 2 decades according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America).

Crazy but true, so okay, now what can you DO to help yourself?

Pay attention to your body and its signals.  If you are starting to feel your allergy symptoms respond to them by:

- Wash your hands (and hair) frequently and don't rub your eyes

- Minimize outdoor time at peak pollen times (first thing in the morning)

- Eat well  (salmon and walnuts, arugula, kale, cilantro, onions, radicchio may help prevent immune cells from releasing histamines which may reduce your symptoms)

- Drink your H20 and try a little green tea

- Pay attention to any foods which make your throat itchy or irritated. What is in the food may cross-react with the allergens in the air.  (ragweed allergy- may be sensitive to cantaloupe, zucchini, cucumbers or birchwood allergy you may be sensitive to carrots, celery, parsley, apples)  Food allergies are a completely different subject but you may be sensitive due to your airborne allergies!

- Find your triggers (either by paying attention to when you sneeze or get that allergy test!)

- Be vigilent about cleaning  triggers can be indoor airborne allergens or things brought in from outside)

- Use saline nose spray or a neti pot to rinse out allergens trapped in your nose.  Find an allergy medicine to help you if that alone does not do the trick

- Get lots of sleep and try to reduce your stress levels.  Meditation or yoga may actually help reduce inflammation!

Allergies when not taken care of slowly turn to colds or sinus infections which cause even more problems.  Take care of yourself from the onset of your allergy symptoms so you can continue to sing with ease!  Also, rest assured, you are not crazy if you feel like you 'suddenly have allergies'.

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