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Singers: Avoid The Common Cold

Dear Dr. Jahn,

I literally can’t afford to catch a cold this time of year! Too many important gigs lined up. So, what are my best chances to avoid catching one – or, if I get one (gasp!), what is my quickest way through it?? I’m wondering if you will tell me anything my mother hasn’t already…


Dear Kitty,

If your mother is like mine, it is unlikely I can do better than her, but here it goes.

First, stay healthy: eat and drink enough, get adequate sleep, exercise regularly and avoid stress as much as possible. Stress can weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable for the cold virus.

Second, minimize the potential for contagion: wash your hands several times a day, especially before touching your face (monitor that you don’t touch your face unnecessarily or habitually), don’t shake hands with sick people and try to avoid crowded places as much as you can.

At the risk of looking silly, cover your face with a scarf if you need to go on a crowded bus or train during rush hour.

If anyone in your family (or a room mate) gets sick, minimize direct physical contact and don’t share personal items such as toiletries, dishes or cutlery.

On the active side of prevention, take Vitamin C, about 4000 mg a day in divided doses during cold season.

Other remedies such as Echinacea may also be helpful, but Vitamin C clearly is beneficial.

At the first sign of a cold, double your Vitamin C intake, always divided over the course of the day.

Remedies containing Vitamin C, such as Airborne are very useful—don’t know if you have this in the U.K., but it is an effervescent tablet with vitamins and other remedies that you can drink at the onset of a cold.

Zinc lozenges are very useful, as are zinc nasal swabs— not as a preventive, but they do shorten the cold, make the symptoms less severe and make you less contagious. (Avoid zinc nasal spray, since some patients have reported a loss of smell using the spray formulation.)

If you do get sick, stop exercising, stay warm, drink lots of fluids and let your body heal itself. You do not need antibiotics unless the viral cold leads to a secondary bacterial infection, which manifests with mucus that is green or yellow.

Let me know how your season goes!

—Dr. Jahn

Questions for Dr. Jahn can be sent to VoiceCouncil Editor

Note: this discussion is for general information and not to be construed as specific medical advice which you should obtain from your own physician.

  • Thank-you Dr Jahn.
    These are all very useful tips for singers… and anyone for that matter!
    Another preventative solution and natural remedy for colds and allergies is to use my favorite device called the “neti pot”.

    All the best with your gigs Kitty! ;-)

  • Anonymous

    IF you’re a gigging vocalist facing illness, disability, or age-related problems you can apply for financial support at “Sweet Relief”. http://sweetrelief.org/

  • Zinc is needed for metabolism of nucleic acids and the synthesis of proteins. It is an important part of the human DNA for cell division and synthesis. Zinc is in all the body fluids, including the moisture in the eyes, lungs, nose, urine, and saliva.

  • Kevin_martin55

    I find this type of information extremely helpful.  Sometime I get so frustrated with my ability to catch a cold at the most inopportune times