Wednesday, July 1, 2015

I’M ALLERGIC TO EVERYTHING! Safe Treatments for Singers: Part 1

By Christi Amonson

I am an Allergist’s daughter, an Allergist’s sister, and I myself am a singer with allergies, so the following information is backed up and approved by board certified Allergy and Asthma doctors and my own lifetime of treatments and experiences!

Current stats tell us that one in every four to five Americans suffers from allergies. It seems that each of those Americans must be a singer due in large part to our sensitivity to vocal and respiratory irritants. If you have allergies you probably feel sick and frustrated when seasons change, when you travel, or when you stay in a new environment that may have mold, dust, animals, and so on. The following is a quick breakdown of basic allergies and the symptoms that plague us.

Allergic reactions happen after an allergen is:
·      Inhaled-pollen and pollution
·      Ingested- food and medication
·      Direct contact with skin- animal hair or dander, soaps, lotions, fabrics, shrubbery, etc.
·      Injected- stings and bites

Common reactions:
·      Watery, itchy eyes
·      Sore throat
·      Constant need to clear throat or post-nasal drip
·      Nasal congestion
·      Sneezing
·      Coughing
·      Pressure in ears
·      Headache
·      Fatigue/vocal fatigue
·      Hayfever- allergies to any substance that causes swelling in the upper airway
·      Asthma- allergies to any substance that causes swelling in lower airways

Whether you get hives or have difficulty breathing due to swelling or congestion, there are safe treatments available. As an Allergist’s daughter, of course I recommend seeing a specialist to get checked out, tested, and find the best remedies for your needs, especially if you suffer from asthma! Treat your allergies with the best care you can find – allergies affect not only your livelihood, but also your quality of life. As a realistic human, I know that sometimes we just need to run to the drugstore and get through the day, so here is a list of doctor-recommended over the counter treatment options and their common side effects:

Antihistamines- Claritin or Zyrtec:
-Side effects include dryness, which may limit vocal stamina.
-Zyrtec is proven to be better for skin reactions, but approximately 15% of population experiences sleepiness that is similar to Benadryl.

Decongestants- Claritin D or Zyrtec D:
-You can buy these without a prescription, but you will find this medication behind the counter.
-These typically do not make dryness worse, but occasionally they will make it difficult to sleep and can increase blood pressure.

Mucolytic agents- Mucinex:
-Mucinex D is the singer’s best friend. The Guaifensin found in Mucinex thins the mucus, acts as an expectorant, and is not habit forming. Combining Mucinex with a decongestant gives singers relief from several symptoms that mess with our heads…literally!

Nasal steroid sprays- Nasonex:
-Side effects include dryness typical of an antihistamine, but less than pills! Nasonex actually contains glycerin that restores moisture.

Queen's Root- herbal remedy:
-Used with varying success for chronic allergies, arthritis, and other mild autoimmune conditions. Side effects include nausea and loose stools.

Neti pot/NielMed Sinus Rinse for sinus pressure
-Side effects include nasal stinging and possibly getting creeped out by the whole idea…

These over the counter treatments are best used for seasonal and mild allergies, but there are more medicinal options out there. Please research further side effects as I have only listed the most common issues and this is in NO WAY meant as a substitute for a trip to the doctor. Keep an eye out for I'M ALLERGIC TO EVERYTHING! Part 2, where I will discuss my thoughts on the different doctor prescribed treatments.

Picture courtesy of Mojpe via