Surviving Cold/ Allergy Season

Oct. 21, 2013 – Weekly Teaching Tip
by Rocio Guitard

‘Tis the season for sneezing, coughing, sniffles, and phlegm. And all of that is walking into your studio multiple times on a single day, because, let’s face it, a student chooses to come in if he/she is only mildly “under the weather”, rather than deal with your cancellation policy (you have one, correct?). So how do you survive during this time?

  • Offer a modified cancellation policy: Should the student feel like he/she is coming down with something the night before, have them put you “on notice” that same evening. If you have a student on the waiting list the next day, you reserve the right to schedule another student in the “possibly sick” student’s place, and the “possibly sick” student may cancel the morning of the lesson at no charge. But only if they put you on notice the night before. This helps encourage your sick students to think twice about coming in when the voice should be resting.
  • Have disinfecting wipes/spray at your studio and use them to cleanse mics, music stands, mic stands, stools, doorknobs, etc. Basically anything that an already sick student came in contact with to avoid spreading the germs further. This really makes a difference during this season. And on a general note, cleansing your equipment on a regular, weekly basis (if not daily) is always a good idea.
  • Practice what you preach and stay home if you’re under the weather. You’ll avoid possibly getting your students sick, and your voice will be grateful for the voice rest.
  • Medications: In a nutshell, decongestants are the devil. You can breathe, but they will dry out your vocal cords as well. So I recommend to my students to only use them if their voice use will be minimal when they take them. An expectorant such as Mucinex (in the US) is a better choice to help thin the mucus and encourage natural drainage of the sinuses, especially if used together with sinus rinses.
  • Allergies: This will depend on where you live, but if you’re located in a place where allergies abound, then this does become an issue for a lot of your students. If a student is constantly phlegmy, find out if he/she suffers from allergies, and if so, what’s being done about it. Keep in mind that over-the-counter allergy meds dry out your voice, so encourage your students to stay away from those, and to work with daily sinus rinses (the NeilMed system in the US is great) and nasal steroid sprays instead of antihistamines, if needed. Uncontrolled allergies can lead to sinus infections in a snap. I have a network of ENTs, allergy, and sinus specialists that I refer people to.
  • Educate your students:  You’d be surprised at the percentage of your students who don’t use common sense to avoid getting sick. From flu shots to scarves, hydration to voice rest, it is a good investment to either hand out printouts to your students, or spend a few minutes giving them all the pertinent info. Never assume they’re as paranoid as we are about getting a respiratory issue 😉

And on that note, this paranoid voice teacher is going back to bed to nurse a yucky cold, instead of teaching today.

Stay well!
Rocio Guitard

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