The winter season is upon us, and that often means cold and flu season. Getting sick is a pain in the neck for anyone, but especially for us as singers. Most everyone who gets sick, especially with pain in their throat, has a sense that they should probably not sing. But is this always true? Let’s start with the basics…

If you have a fever, have been diagnosed with strep throat, or are coughing or sneezing regularly, PLEASE STAY HOME. Your church will survive without you. Moreover, if you really care about your local Body of Christ, you need to keep your germs and sickness away from them. You are not doing anyone ANY favors by showing up to sing, as if the world is depending on you. It’s so easy for us to overestimate how important our role is. We need to stop, step back, and look at the overall grand scheme of things. Yes, what you do is very valuable and important, but the service WILL go on without you. It may be different; you will certainly be missed, and you will miss it too, but we need to be reasonable and caring with regard to our brothers and sisters. So, please take care of yourself and others around you.

Are you just getting sick? Not sure if you’re REALLY sick just yet? Many contagious diseases are spread at just this point. We are often contagious long before we know it. I will never forget an experience I had when my daughter Karinne was about 18 months old. Three of my kids (including Karinne) attended a birthday party. Sometime shortly afterward, Karinne went in for her regular vaccinations, including a measles shot. Unbeknownst to me, she had been exposed to chickenpox at that birthday party. Within 36 hours she broke out in BOTH the measles AND the chickenpox. Inadvertently, by not realizing she had been exposed, I ended up putting her in a dangerous position because her immune system was compromised when she got her shot. She got the worst of both worlds.

I frequently think of that experience when I think of how thoughtless people can sometimes be with regard to protecting themselves and those around them. It’s one thing if you feel like you can muscle through, but it’s another thing altogether to make that choice for someone else. If you feel a sickness coming on: PLEASE STAY HOME.

Once the fever has passed and you’re no longer contagious but you still feel a bit under the weather, should you sing? The short answer is no. It would likely always be better for you to stay home and rest. However, I would look more deeply into what your issues actually are before pronouncing a firm prognosis. Did you cough a lot during your illness? Did you experience a sore throat of some kind? Did you clear your throat often, even to the point of rawness? Is your voice hoarse, or still sore? These things can help to determine what further damage you might do to your vocal cords if you go on to sing while not yet recovered. Singing on damaged cords will make the damage worse, and at a much faster rate. Coughing and clearing your throat can be VERY distressing to the cords; in fact, it’s possible to make your cords bleed after even one harsh throat clearing!

So, at this point I would suggest that if you are suffering vocally still but are otherwise feeling better, it would be fine to attend and serve in your usual function as long as you don’t sing. Don’t laugh – haha. I’m serious, because there are many things you CAN do to lead and be involved. Just don’t get on mic. If you insist on singing (which I don’t recommend) please take these precautions.

  • Get a good night’s sleep, and rest as much as you can between sets/rehearsing.
  • Limit your talking to only the absolute necessary. (not at all if possible)
  • Warm-up very gently, but thoroughly, and then rest until you have to sing.
  • Don’t try for any susperstar moves; keep it simple and mid range.
  • Limit your actual singing as much as possible, especially during rehearsal, hum instead when possible.

For more tips on hydration and other vocal helps, see last month’s article on “Winter Blues”.

I know that so many of you serve your local churches selflessly week in and week out. You do this out of love and commitment to the Lord Jesus and His Body. Thank you so much for your service. You are appreciated. Please take care of you. The Body of Christ needs you to keep on singing for a lifetime, and you CAN! But you need to take care of yourself and your voice. God bless you as you serve Him.

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