Category: News & Updates > Occupational Allergy  

Allergy and the Vocal Performer

Allergic respiratory conditions pose problems for singers in many ways:

  • Drainage of nasal secretions onto the vocal cords
  • Coughing fits potentially injuring the cords
  • Nasal congestion and sneezing affecting respiration.  Consequent mouth breathing may lead to more coughing, airway dryness and asthma symptoms.

Actors and singers are exposed to occupational risks for allergy:

  • Performers who work in theaters often encounter unfavorable dusty or moldy conditions.
  • Theater set construction generates dust and airborne particles
  • Traveling performers who travel and stay in musty motels
  • Theater “Fog” contains chemicals that may damage the lungs triggering asthma symptoms

The challenge of treating allergy and asthma in singers is compounded by the side effects of medications

  • Drying effects of antihistamines and decongestants
  • Drainage of some liquid nasal sprays onto the vocal cords
  • Laryngeal effects of certain inhaled steroid asthma medications

Our thoughts on management of the allergic singer:

  • Due to the greater vulnerability to allergens and medication side effects,  there is a lower threshold for starting allergy immunotherapy in these patients.
  • Proper evaluation of the allergic singer often includes rhinolaryngoscopy (a 1 minute evaluation of the nose and throat, easily done at the initial visit) to evaluate for secondary factors (sinusitis, nasal polyps, septal deviation)

In addition to allergy, it has been proposed that singers habits could be even more prone to respiratory tract infections.  The “unphysiological way of breathing” by mouth during singing bypasses the protective nasal warming, humidification and filtering of inhaled air.