Washing hands

Are you feeling icky?

I’ve asked a couple of very helpful voice over coaches to share how they get through yucky voice conditions including their preferred methods of going from sickness to health during cold season.
Graciously sharing two different perspectives gained from years of experience and practical application, take heed to what Bettye Zoller and Debbie Munro have to say and get yourself on the path to feeling better, for you and for the good of your voice over career!

Advice From Bettye Zoller

Remedies for hoarse (damaged vocal folds) voice:
1. You have hurt the vocal folds, tiny and delicate string-like tissues in the voice box or larnyx which create vocal sound when they rub together pushed by breath. When you shout or talk to much for too long, the vocal folds can become rough, red, almost like a chapped hand ffrom winter winds, and can swell. In extreme vocal abuse cases, the folds develop nodules which are like a “corn” on the toe. If these harden, they are called “nodes.” They often must be surgically removed. COMPLETE VOCAL REST is mandatory with hoarseness (at least, talk as little as possible until gently ‘trying out’ the voice to see if it’s recovering somewhat. Drink lots of water. No alcohol (it’s drying).

2. Wrap your mouth opening with scarf when in winter winds. Harsh bitter-cold wind rushing down your throat onto your warm and moist vocal folds often can cause hoarseness!
3. See your physician and try to “nip colds short in the first day or two” before they accellerate into something worse. Some doctors have sprays for the nose and throat that are wonderful too.

4. Sleep with a humidifier pumpting moist air into your bedroom. You need not use the “smelly menthol substance” in it unless you like that and it does open up the nasal passages when you have a serious congestion. It’s also great for your face! We all need more hydration in our hot, closed-up houses in the wintertime!

5. Elevate your head when you sleep. You’ll have less problem with drainage from the nose dripping down onto the vocal folds and causing irritation.
Get well soon!
Bettye Zoller

Advice From Debbie Munro

Getting Rid of Colds
I learned this the hard way.
I booked an animation (my first in fact) and my character had a catch phrase “Simply Sensational”. The first six months were fine, then it seemed that EVERY month (I was committed to travel each month for 2 days of recording) I got a cold just before my session and had a SNEGAL (How they spell that one I’m not sure) in my throat and had to do multiple takes. It was then that I discovered that staying healthy was number one so here is what I did to make sure, and I have been sick only once in 7 years since that situation: (knock on wood):

1. Covered my head when I went out in the cold. I took very good care of my health…especially in my hot tub. I would even wear ear muffs LOL (good old Canadian winters).
2. Washed my hands ALL THE TIME.
3. Avoided my kids (touching and sharing) when they were sick.
4. Prevenative herbs such as Cold FX (something different in the states). I find these work and I take them whenever those around me are sick.

5. I avoid all medications except if I have a cold and I’m congested and I have to do a spot I learned a trick in my early animation career: take two Advil Cold and Sinus with a cup of black coffee ½ hour prior to your session. Clears you up enough to get through it.
6. I drink warm water when I’m in a session with a cold… it feels soothing and helps me get through the session.
7. I find also a spray bottle of water is helpful.

8. Exercise regularily (I think this is one of the main reasons I don’t get sick anymore) Colds try to come but never seem to surface…. lucky me… even while those around me are all sick. It’s been amazing.
9. Be so busy you have no time to relax therefore you’re never sick (another of my innocent remedies… perhaps not recommended to be that busy).
10. Tablespoon of olive oil is also heaven to your vocal instrument during a session.

11. DON’T AUDITION WHEN SICK… you won’t be able to pull it off if you get the job and the cold is gone.
12. I will voice when I’m sick (depending on how I feel about it) as you can mask a cold on a short script. Nothing long format. Nothing is worth damaging your vocal instrument over.
13. I know of a video game where several of the men voicing BLEW THEIR THROATS. This can happen. Remember if you take on a character that is hard on your chest or throat, can you do this character over 16 pages of script? PROTECT YOUR INSTRUMENT.

14. If you TRULY can’t sleep you aren’t any good for your session anyway, I swear by Nyquil night time. It puts me out everytime allowing me to sleep in peace for at least 6 hours. HEAVEN.
15. Echinacea tea etc. Herbal teas are great.
16. Avoid milky substances, sugars etc. Lots of clear liquids and tons of water.

17. Green Granny Smith Apples are a voicers best friend. Too congested? Try a bite of the apple. Too dry, try a bite of the apple, too wet etc. It’s a unique thing!
We don’t get sick pay…. we are our product, our salesman, our accountant, our producer and more so we have no other choice but to stay healthy. Mind over matter! ALWAYS!
Hope that helps,
All my best
Deb Munro
Voice Pitt Studios / MicNMe

Any Comments Or Tips You’d Like To Share?

Let’s beat these colds! Share your remedies below 🙂
Best wishes,

P.S. BONUS tip from Rodney Saulsberry!

One of my favorite products that has helped me immensely this allergy season is Zyrtec. I take one tablet in the morning and I am able to do voiceovers without fear of sneezing or being clogged and stuffed up. Everyone knows how much I believe in Green Tea, but I have recently found that lemon and hot water are also very good for soothing your vocal cords. The lemon actually opens your nasal passages.

Rodney Saulsberry
Rodney Saulsberry on Voice Over Experts
©iStockphoto.com/Tomas Bercic


  1. Sensational! I am sooo cold here in London, coming from sunny Queensland, and this a great article to stay in shape. Very important for us voicers.
    I also have a nasty, yet very effective remedy to add. Ginger, honey and as much lemon as you can possibly handle and shove it all in some hot water. If you’re feeling adventurous or particularly ill, you might want to throw in some garlic. Death in a cup, but it does the trick!

  2. Having a child at nursery is the absolute worst thing – they come home with colds, coughs and a myriad of other germs. Thanks so much for the tips.
    By the way, whats a snegal? Sounds like something out of Lord of the Rings?

  3. For chronic congestion, I recommend Neti. Neti is a Hindu practice of saline nasal rinse. You can buy premixed packets of just the right concentration of salts and a neti pot or nasal rinse squeeze bottle in most pharmacies. Don’t use table or sea salts, as they have contaminants and additives that can do more harm than good, and using too little or too much salt can also make things worse. So definitely buy the premixed stuff. Mix the salts with 6 to 8 ounces of warm distilled water and then squeeze or pour the solution in one nostril and let it drain out the other. It will take some of the mucous and environmental contaminants like pollen and dust with it as it goes, loosen impacted mucous, moisturize the mucous membranes, and the salts have an antiseptic property to help keep you healthy. I do Neti twice a day and have been able to cut way back on the sinus/allergy meds I take and I have seen a marked reduction in the number of sinus headaches I experience. And my wife says my snoring has been greatly reduced, too. Not a miracle cure, but very helpful.

  4. I am not only a voice over artist but a singer as well……I have a few tricks to help when sick….
    #1 Vocal rest when you can.
    #2 Entertainers Secret throat spray for hoarseness.
    #3 Horseradish is a natural anti-inflamatory (1 teaspoon)….helps clear the sinus also.
    #4 Gypsy Cold Care Tea – helps the respiratory.
    #5 Olive oil to lubricate & ease the throat (1 teaspoon or 2)….too much can give you a belly ache though.
    #6 keep the throat warm with a scarf…put scarf over your mouth when outdoors…. keep head warm too.
    #7 Wash Hands and carry with you anti-bacterial hand gel & keep away from public places that have a lot of people in them at once (ie: Movie Theatres & airplanes)
    #8 Keep away from children if you can…they carry the colds & pass them along like crazy.
    #9 Nasal Cleanse/ Neti Pot……This has helped me stay 98% cold & allergy free…It’s great for stopping post nasal drip. When I feel like I’ve been somewhere that germs could have been passed to me… I nasal cleanse as soon as I get home… when I feel like a cold is coming on – before I get too congested – I nasal cleanse. I do a nasal cleanse at least 2-3 times a week in allergy season… It helps a lot. Also If flying in a plane…. when I get to my destination I nasal cleanse.
    #10 Exercise & eat right… Take vitamins & build up your immune system…B vitamins…especially B12
    #11 for sore throat… gargle with salt water (sea salt is the best)…..Honey is good as long as there is no infection… vocal rest… & see a doctor to make sure it’s not something serous.
    Hope some of this helps!
    Maggie M.

  5. I love Eucalyptus oil!
    Bring a small pot of water to boil on the stove top. Once it is boiling, remove it from the stove and place it on a hot mit on your table. Add a few drops of the oil to the steaming water. Lean over the steaming oil vapor and drape a towel over your head to keep the vapors in. The oil smells great and it opens your nasal passages and the steam feels good too! I love doing this whenever the weather changes or if I catch the sniffles!

  6. Thanks for all the great tips.
    My list:
    1.I use a neti pot on a regular basis.
    2. When I’ve either been exposed to a cold or think I might be getting one I drink Cold Season Tea put out by Yogi, and take Zinc tablets.
    3.Drink lots of water.
    4.Other teas I use are Green Tea, Throat Coat, and Breathe Easy.
    5.A humidifer in winter is a must.
    6.I cook with lots of garlic powder, ginger and tumeric.
    Here’s to staying cold free this winter!!!
    Chris Fadala

  7. Zinc lozenges, echinacea, orange juice and hot water with lemon in it always nurses me back to health, and keeps me in front of the microphone.

  8. To a certain degree, my voice sounds even better (deeper) when I have a cold. The only thing I need to do is to see to it that I can still breath through my nose. When that doesn’t work anymore, then I’m in trouble. Then it’s nosedrops I need.

  9. When I have a cold, I drink hot water with a tablespoon of cider vinegar in it and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. It works like drain-o on phlegm and sooths the throat.
    Elevating your head when you sleep can help prevent post-nasal drip from irritating your throat and making you cough all night; however, if you have back and/or neck problems, elevating your head enough to avoid post-nasal drip can be painful. In this case, you can try lying on your side with your head at the edge of your pillow, so that your head hangs forward, half off the pillow. The drip will stop being post-nasal and flow forwards – which is not a joy, but better than flowing onto your vocal folds and irritating them.
    Good health to us all!

  10. These are all wonderful suggestions. I do film and book VOs sometimes. And do a lot of phone interviews. So these suggestions all help a lot. Water is the overall best way to instantly get rid of a cough or rasp coming on.


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