Allergies When You’re a Singer

This article originally appeared in Classical Singer magazine. To subscribe to the print magazine, go to www.csmusic.info/subscribe.

Asthma doesn’t seem to bother me any more unless I’m around cigars or dogs. The thing that would bother me most would be a dog smoking a cigar. – Steve Allen

According to the Harvard Health Letter, seasonal allergies are starting earlier every year, and pollen counts are rising. At least 36 million people are affected by seasonal allergies each year in the USA. And as singers, it can become a problem.

So what is an allergy? It’s when our immune system overreacts to foreign materials and produces an inflammatory response. Inhaling these allergy pollens and pollutants, such as grass, weeds, trees, flowers, mold spores and dust mite droppings, etc. all contribute to triggering a reaction from our immune systems.

Determining what makes your immune system respond the way it does is important. One theory is that a small amount of allergen may not be enough to cause our immune systems to become inflamed, but continued exposure or the exposure to a bunch of different types of allergens all at the same time can lead to an overloaded system. And this gets even more magnified if one is overly tired, stressed out or if you have recently been ill.

We all have different ways of dealing with this most annoying occurrence no matter the season. I know I have heard, over the years, how difficult it can be to choose from those over the counter allergy pills because some make your drowsy, others uber hyper and they might even dry you out. However, there is an alternative you might want to try. There are several supplements that can be used to help control your allergies and boost your immune system at the same time. You might want to check in with a Nutritionist or a Homeopath before trying these. Here is my favorite.

It’s MSM and you can most times find it at your local organic food store or vitamin shop and isn’t terribly expensive. According to the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, MSM is 34% sulfur, which can help maintain optimal health. Sulfur helps the body detoxify itself, and helps produce glutathione, an important antioxidant. It’s extremely safe and can be taken at high doses, even if your diet contains lots of MSM-rich foods such as raw dark green vegetables, carrots, spinach, peppers and radishes. A study was done where a group of folks took 2600mg of MSM per day (some even used higher doses without any side effects) and found that their allergic upper and total respiratory symptoms were significantly reduced within seven days. And it stayed that way as they kept up their regiment throughout the allergy season.

Another substance that helps calm down the immune system under a pollen attack and is also great for migraines and headaches in general is Alpine Herb Butterbur (Petadolex). It can be used in conjunction with MSM. This herb in the wild contains a potentially toxic substance, but Petadolex has removed it so it is very safe and in fact has been endorsed by the Academy of Neurology and The American Headache Society. It reduces inflammation.

And then there is always the Neti Pot. If you don’t have one, get one and use it every day. You can either buy or make a weak saline solution to use as you irrigate your nose. Just follow the directions or ask for directions on how to use it when you buy it. As I said in the beginning, we inhale so many pollutants, and allergens that keeping them out of your system by douching your nose every day will make your immune system happy and perhaps lesson any allergies.

Knock off the sugar until allergy season is over because the body doesn’t digest processed sugar well and it’s just another stress on your system.

And my last suggestion is to make an appointment for acupuncture if you have never tried it. It generally takes a few visits to see any results and it may get a bit worse before it gets better because you are detoxifying your system when you do this so plan these visits when you have at least a week of down time between performances.

The study found that ragweed grown in an atmosphere with double the current carbon dioxide levels produced 61 percent more pollen than normal. Such a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide is expected to occur between 2050 and 2100. – Paul Epstein

I hope you find this information helpful and it makes you curious enough to start looking for alternative ways of dealing with this allergy situation. I would love to hear from you as to what you use to alleviate your allergies so I can pass it on. And lastly, these are just my thoughts and opinions and things that have worked for me about this subject so do your own homework to find your own answers.

 

CS Music Staff

CS Music is THE community for singers, teachers, and pianists. CS began in 1986 with the first issue of The New York Opera Newsletter and later to the award-winning magazine Classical Singer. Since 2003 CS has expanded to included articles, audition listings, and events for both classical and musical theatre singers worldwide! Free online articles and listings are available at www.csmusic.net.