Published: Jan. 20, 2010
Updated: Aug. 4, 2011
Keeping the vocal folds moist through good hydration is very important for good voice health. We can provide moisture to the vocal folds both from the inside (internally) and from the outside (externally).
To keep the vocal folds moist from the inside, make sure that you drink plenty of water. The vocal folds move best when the body is well hydrated, and well-hydrated vocal folds may be less likely to get hurt from voice use.
Good hydration also makes the mucus that covers the vocal folds thin and slippery, so that they move against each other easily and vibrate smoothly. Think of the mucus coating as being like motor oil in the engine of your car: if it is thin and slippery, the engine runs smoothly; if it is thick and sticky, the engine doesn’t run well and can be damaged.
If you are under a doctor’s care for any medical conditions, be sure to check with the doctor before changing the amount of water you drink.
If you don’t like drinking water:
External hydration is getting moisture to the vocal folds from the outside.
Steam inhalation: Inhaling or breathing steam helps the voice box stay moist and can be very soothing to irritated vocal folds. Breathe the steam through your nose for three to five minutes, two to three times per day.
You can try any of these:
Room humidification: You can increase the moisture in your home or office by using a room humidifier or hot water vaporizer. Be sure to use a hot water vaporizer -- cool mist vaporizers can cause chemicals and germs to get into the air. With hot water vaporizers, only water gets into the air you breathe.
Many medications, such as cold and allergy medications, are drying to the body. Try to avoid these medications to help your body stay hydrated.
If you need to take these medications, you may need to drink extra water to make up for their drying effect. Of course, never change your medications without consulting your doctor.
Your doctor may recommend a mucolytic medication. This is a medication that can help keep mucus thin and slippery. These medications are available over the counter.
The active ingredient is guaifenesin. Brand names include Humibid, Mucinex, and Robitussin. Be sure to get the preparation that does not contain decongestants, antihistamines, or cough suppressants.
Many cough drops and throat lozenges are drying to the mucus membranes of the mouth and throat. This is especially true for products that contain menthol and eucalyptus. The best lozenges for soothing the mouth or throat without drying are glycerin lozenges. Brand names include Grether’s Pastilles and Dr. Doolittle’s.