Singing While Sick: Is it Safe? Toronto Singing Teacher's Perspective
Updated: Nov 7, 2022
It’s flu season, and if you're new student enrolled in singing lessons in Toronto, you know how it gets passed around.
Are you concerned about sudden interruptions in vocal development/singing lessons?
How about upcoming gigs?
Singing while sick is not a black-and-white issue, but I hope to help you make the choice that is right for you.
So, the question is:
Can you sing while you’re sick?
Vocal rest is usually prescribed in serious situations, such as: acute laryngitis, nodules, following vocal surgery, or when high-stakes performances are involved.
This means that yes, you may be able to sing while you’re sick,
but to what degree depends on The 3 S’s:
Symptoms, Skill, and Stakes
Disclaimer: This article’s aim is to provide guidance for singers. It is NOT a substitute for consultation from an ENT Doctor or Laryngologist, such as: The Voice Clinic
The Best voice teachers in Toronto & around the world are not just there to help you sing better. The Best Singing Teachers have a breadth of knowledge to help with both vocal technique AND vocal health. As you will find out, they are actually one in the same.
Most vocal damage is done through illness maintenance, such as coughing & clearing the throat, not from the illness itself.
If you have a lung infection, if your vocal folds are swollen, or if you’ve been coughing a lot, please proceed with caution.
To be clear, this means that if you have a head cold or nasal congestion, you can sing to your heart’s delight.
In cases where the symptoms above are minor, singing can be therapeutic for the voice. However, it's important to use proper vocal technique, which leads to…
Is a part of your range missing?
Can you reconnect it through sirening or lip bubbles?
Can you modify through your passaggio by using more or less head voice? How about twang or cry?
How does air flow and vocal fold closure affect your condition?
The answers to these questions become clear once you've taken singing lessons for some time, and you mustn’t put the cart before the horse.
Be honest with yourself! It’s okay if the above terms sound like absolute gibberish, because singing is a skill, and you will learn it in due time.
The Plain Truth: If you are a beginner (approx. 0-2 years of lessons), and you have been coughing a lot, it may be best for you to take a break from singing until symptoms ease. That’s not to say you can’t come to (virtual) singing lessons. Much can be learned from singing while sick under professional supervision.
This one is for my gigging singers out there. I’m going to be careful to stay away from the politics. So, though I do not recommend public performance while contagious:
What if you need the gig, and you don't have the luxury of understudies, cancelling, or rescheduling?
Doctors have been prescribing steroids for singers for quite some time, which reduces the swelling in the vocal folds. With this option, you can expect some negative repercussions on the voice, which last a couple days at minimum.
Make sure you ask your ENT about this before letting them do anything to you.
You may choose to rely on the body’s natural chemical, adrenaline, to save the day. You’d be surprised what you can come up with when it kicks in.
Discuss it with your Singing Teacher. The best voice teachers in Pop, Musical Theatre, and all genres have a deep understanding of anatomy and healthy vocal production.
What? You expected me to tell you exactly what to do?
Part of learning to sing is developing a relationship with your body, and starting to make these difficult decisions on your own...
But all in due time.
If the road ahead is still unclear, book a lesson or consultation through www.tylorvanriper.com/outtheresinging
About the Author: Tylor van Riper is a singing teacher in Toronto, specializing in healthy vocal production through balancing acoustics & power. With degrees from multiple universities (MA, Musical Theatre, Guildford School of Acting) he performed on international stages, before founding OUT THERE SINGING, the best vocal studio in North York, Toronto, which has a mission to empower and train gender diverse voices.