This week, I’ve been in Orange heaven. The Syracuse University men’s basketball team is finally back where it belongs, in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16. I’ll be cheering for them tonight, when they take on Butler University, but I’ll be cheering a little less vigorously, after hearing from Dr. Lee M. Akst, director of the Johns Hopkins Voice Center and assistant professor in Hopkins School of Medicine's Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.
Although there isn’t exactly a rush on ENT offices after the Final Four, Dr. Akst said that yelling and screaming during games definitely increases the risk of damaging your vocal chords. It’s already a high-risk time of year for vocal chords, he said, because it’s allergy season. But if you insist on shouting, do it for Syracuse, and take note of Dr. Akst’s tips:
- 1. Limit screaming or shouting, which places a lot of stress on delicate vocal cord structures.
- 2. Drink plenty of water or other non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages throughout the day to keep your vocal cords well lubricated. Aim for six to eight eight-ounce glasses of water daily.
- 3. Don’t smoke, and avoid smoky environments that might worsen vocal cord inflammation.
- 4. Avoid excessive throat clearing or coughing, which can irritate the vocal cords. If you need to clear a sensation of thick mucous, try taking sips of water instead.
- 5. Breathe deeply and use plenty of breath support while cheering. A strong, clear voice begins with airflow from the lungs.
- 6. Recognize high-risk vocal situations. When there is loud background noise, you might not realize just how loudly you are speaking.
- 7. Listen to your voice. If it begins to sound rough, your vocal cords may be getting inflamed.
- 8. Know when to rest. If vocal cords are inflamed, let them recover by temporarily resting your voice.
- 9. Consider other, non-vocal ways to cheer. Clapping your hands, stomping your feet or whistling can all help you root for your team without straining your vocal cords.
- 10. If your hoarseness lasts longer than two weeks or is accompanied by ear pain, weight loss, difficulty swallowing or breathing, or pain while speaking, you should consider checking in with an otolaryngologist (a.k.a. ENT doctor).
And for those of you who make it through the Final Four, you can look forward to a less raucous vocal event next month: April 16 is World Voice Day.