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Voice care: looking after your voice

Patient information A-Z

Your vocal folds need to be moist in order to function properly. If they become dry or irritated, the following will help.

Drinking extra

You should aim to drink two litres a day, to help flush out toxins from your system. This may sound like an impossible amount. However, if you increase your fluid intake, your body should adjust to this quite quickly.

Caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, coke) can be included but no more than three to four cups a day. If drunk in excess they can increase dehydration. The best things to drink are water, fruit juice or squash, which help to rehydrate your body. If you prefer hot drinks, try fruit or herbal tea, hot squash or Bovril etc.

Steam inhalation

All the air you breathe passes over your vocal cords. Steam inhalation will soothe them if they are dry, sore or irritated.

Half fill a large bowl or sink with a kettle of water which has just boiled. Sit comfortably and cover your head, shoulders and the bowl with a large towel. Breathe in and out through your mouth. Continue until the water stops steaming.

Your throat will need time to cool down after this so allow 30 minutes before you go out into cooler/ outdoor air. Try to do this twice daily or more often if your throat is especially irritated or if you are using your voice a lot. For a quicker option when you are on the go or at work for example, fill a cup with boiling water to steam. Portable steamers can also be used for this.

Do not add any oils, such as Olbas oils, to the water as these will irritate the vocal cords rather than help. Two drops of camomile essential oil or one tablespoon of camomile flowers may be added if you wish as camomile contains a natural anti-inflammatory agent.

Hot compresses

These will help soothe an inflamed or painful throat and improve the blood circulation, helping to reduce swelling or inflammation.

Fill a basin with hot water, soak and wring out a face flannel, fold it up and press it to your throat. Hold there until it cools down. Repeat three to four times. If you find this helpful, try to do it several times a day, especially when your throat is sore or tired.

Some people find a heated wheat bag helpful for this.

Reducing dryness

Sucking sugar free sweets (boiled sweets, not medicated) and chewing gum helps to stimulate saliva flow. Many people find that pieces of fruit relieve dryness as well. Try orange, lemon or grapefruit or if these are too acidic try apple, pear or cucumber.

Throat clearing/ coughing

Clearing your throat can be very irritating for your vocal cords, as it forcefully bangs them together. Some people have developed a habit of clearing the throat without realising. Throat clearing causes inflammation of the vocal cords, which makes you feel the need to throat clear more. This can become a cycle.

It can be helpful to try and reduce throat-clearing. Ask family/ friends to tell you each time they notice you doing this, and make a conscious effort to suppress the urge. When you feel the need to clear your throat or cough, try having a sip of water or sucking a sugar free sweet. The strategies above should also help with this.

We are smoke-free

Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

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Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151