Picture this. An extended family all crowded into a small living room. A fire is popping, adding ambiance to the room. Grandpa is snoring in his chair despite all the noise that comes as family members catch up with each other and reminisce. And right there in the middle of all the cousins giggling and squirming on the couch, little Matthew is wiping his nose on his sleeve and coughing.

Sound familiar? For all of the wonderful things the holiday season brings, it also tends to be plagued by sickness. If you make your living as a speaker, or are required to present often for your job, getting sick can be a huge problem. Especially if that sickness affects your voice.

Sickness happens. But you don’t have to surrender hopelessly to the holiday germ exchange. The minute you feel that foreboding scratchiness in your throat, you can spring into action. These tips will help you prepare for and react to the season that seems to have it out for your voice.

1. Limit Sugar Intake

A recent Washington Post article cited the fact that 15% of American’s daily calories come from added sugars despite dietary guidelines which say “added sugars should account for no more than 10% of a person’s daily calories.” And you can bet that percentage is higher around the holidays. Board-certified licensed nutritionist and author, Monica Reinagel, says that when you eat or drink excess sugar, “you temporarily tamp down your immune system’s ability to respond to challenge.” And the effects of that last for a few hours, placing your immune system at a distinct disadvantage. So when you start to feel sick, you need to eliminate added sugars from your diet. Boosting your immune system is an important step in vocal care.

2. Consume Nutrient-Rich Foods

When you start to feel sick, it’s not just what you keep out of your body that matters. You also need to pay attention to what you put in your body. The following infographic from the Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University shows what foods you’ll want to reach for to help keep you well and reduce the severity of your illness if you do get sick.

3. Humidify

Increasing the humidity in your throat is a big part of vocal care.  Use a warm shower, a humidifier, or a personal diffuser to help reduce that dry and scratchy feeling in your throat. Here’s one of my favorite remedies when my voice is feeling strained. I put a cup of distilled water in a mug and heat it in the microwave until almost boiling. Then I add a few drops of lemon, peppermint, or eucalyptus oil (make sure to use certified organic oils). Then I carefully place the mug on a solid surface and put a towel over my head and inhale the steam through my mouth and nose. This helps to lubricate and soothe both my nasal passages (where a lot of sore throat problems originate) and my vocal folds. Just don’t get too close to the steam or you could risk burning yourself.

4. Use Honey & Lemon

When your throat is irritated, reach for the honey and lemons as part of your vocal care routine. While honey works to soothe a sore throat, lemon gives you a boost of immunity boosting vitamin C while also breaking up mucus. The research on why these are good for your voice speaks for itself. Research published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health has proven honey to be more effective at calming nighttime coughs than cough syrup. And studies show that lemon could reduce the duration of your cold by 8-14%.

No one wants to get sick during the holidays. But those of us who are speakers and presenters have to take extra procautions to take care of our voices. The tips above can help keep you presenting at your best even during the holiday gauntlet of germs.

For more tips on becoming the best presenter you can be, check out the resources available to you at Ethos3.

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