"Oh no, I have a sore throat...."
How often has it happened to you that you realize, with alarm, that you have something happening in your throat - and it is not good?
That small spot of soreness on the left or on the right? That sneezy feeling that seems to come from just behind your nose - a place you cannot possibly scratch?
Sometimes the soreness seems to come right from your vocal cords themselves...
For a singer, it is always a moment of realization: "I may be getting a cold. And (oh no!) this one is starting with a sore throat."
Over time, singers find ways to help themselves deal with colds and sore throats. Some of my friends rely on a flower - I have a sore throat, where is my echinacea? - to ward off a cold.
NOTE! (If you are not a singer, but concerned about the quality of your speaking voice, you can also gain a great benefit from taking a series of singing lessons directed to your particular needs.)
When I have a sore throat, I immediately begin to gargle with warm salted water several times a day. I also drink a lot of plain room temperature water. I try to rest during the day. And I visualize that little spot of soreness... gradually disappearing. And sometimes, it does!
But for those days when the soreness is there, and you have obligations to sing that you really do not want to cancel - it helps to have a vocal routine that will test whether this is a "no talk" situation or a "take care and keep going" situation. See audio/video below.
Most seasoned singers develop personal ways to approach a sore throat. Here is what I do: If the soreness is deep in my vocal cords - I KNOW I should not sing. And I cancel performances or lessons - fast. I have come to understand that singing with that kind of soreness will most definitely lead to laryngitis. And that condition can last a very long time. Also it is easy to pass a condition on to others when it is in the starting phase. (So be wise, be fair and do not sing.)
But if the soreness is not deep in my throat. Instead I feel it on the left or right of my throat (tonsil area) or up behind my nose. And it is NOT the kind of soreness that makes me cry: "I can't even swallow!" (which means, "Do not sing!") - then I take my voice through a series of exercises to see how my vocal cords will respond to vocalizing.
Listen through this audio/video to hear my own warm-up routine... I was coming back to singing after a bad sore throat.
I have a sore throat, but maybe I can still sing?
As you will hear in the video, I work very gently with my voice at the start. Then I add a little bit more texture to the sound. And then I use a bigger sound. But all within an easy range.
If I last for 8 to 10 minutes of singing, with no sign of increasing swelling on my vocal cords, then I rest for about 30 minutes. During that time, I stay quiet.
If, after half an hour, my voice is still feeling ok - no sensation of laryngitis, then I go back to the keyboard and warm up again for about 10 minutes.
I do this several times over a period of 2 hours. And if, at the end of that time, I can sing better than when I started in the morning and my throat is not feeling more sore, I assume I can sing that evening. And I will begin to add more weight to the sound in a warm-up until I am singing with my full voice.
As you can see, it is best to stay quiet with a sore throat. But sometimes, when your day is so full of singing activity that you cannot easily cancel, you can test the waters and then make a smart decision.
You voice is precious. Always err on the side of good health.