Monday, February 15, 2016

Help! I've lost my voice!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Sick sick sick. I am sick. I have laryngitis.

And what’s more Jonathan has laryngitis, too. But his is different. He started with laryngitis, and it turned into coughing.

I started with laryngitis, and it stayed laryngitis.

We are quite the pair. The doctor told Jonathan: One, it's not contagious And two,  the only thing that can cure it is –not talking. So we’ll be riding along in the car, silent.  I’ve got to tell you, that is weird. From time to time I’ll think—what’s wrong with him? Is he upset? Then I remember—he’s trying not to talk. And we know, whispering is not a good alternative--it makes it worse.

Not so easy for me, on so many levels. My whole life is about talking. I had to tape a script the other day for an upcoming story—and I sound all croaky. So I’ll have to re-do the whole thing when my voice comes back. (It's called "doing a scratch track." Perfectly named, right? In the old days of analog video tape, I learned to say the same thing with an un-sick voice in exactly the same time—otherwise, it ruined the videoed it. Now with digital, it’s easier.)

And the other day I had to give a speech in from of 150 or so people! So I slugged down a cup of tea and honey  (which was more like a cup of honey with tea) which seemed to coat my throat enough to manage. I was very Brenda Vaccarro (Demi Moore?) sounding—and the audio guy pumped the microphone level so I could speak softly. It worked.

We have gulped tea and honey, sipped hot water and lemon, rested out voices.  We still sound like a froggy duet.

Do you have any laryngitis remedies? Have you ever had it? What did you do? 

HALLIE EPHRON: When I taught school I got it a couple of times a year. The only cure is: Shut. Up. Really your vocal cards need to recover. Tea with honey and a little bourbon is nice, too.

RHYS BOWEN: Poor you! John has had a cough that has lingered on and it's not fun for either of us. But I do have a couple of suggestions for laryngitis. I have hung out with singers at various times in my life (opera chorus etc) and my daughter studied to be an opera singer. Pineapple juice is great for throats. Also hot water with apple cider vinegar and honey in it, sipped slowly. These are what singers take. Good luck!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Oh no! I know that weird feeling - why isn't he saying anything? and it's so frustrating when the answer is because he can't. I'm terrible at keeping my mouth shut (which will surprise none of you.) I rely on the old standby, hot strong honey and lemon tea. I also find my grandmother's receipt for a sore throat works better than any over-the-counter soother: make a glass of warm salt water - as salty as you can stand - and use it as a gargle. Salt on inflamed tissues sounds counterintuitive, but you'll feel so much better afterwards. She was also a big believer in a spoonful of medicinal blackberry brandy, which I suppose worked like Nyquil does today. I like Hallie's idea - if you have enough bourbon, at least you won't CARE about the laryngitis anymore.

DEBORAH CROMBIE:  Poor Hank! Poor Jonathan! And poor me--now deprived of seeing or holding my new granddaughter for more than a week. I came down with the Horrid Cold the day she came home from the hospital. Isn't that the pits? And then five days later, Rick got it, too, so our whole house is going to be a no-go zone even longer. (Everything on the web says cold viruses can be contagious up to two weeks!!! Flu, actually, is not as bad...) Thankfully, neither of us has laryngitis. We're just coughy and croaky. Cure for laryngitis? I'm with Julia, the warm salt water gargle. That was my grandmother's remedy. For soothing the throat, hot water with lemon and lots of honey. For a tickly cough, lemon juice, honey, and a good slug of brandy (my mom's remedy.)  Eventually we will all get well

HANK: But isn't it funny how "well" seems so impossible? I know it will happen, but somehow it seems so far away.

LUCY BURDETTE: Sorry you guys, hope you all get healthy soon! I have no great remedies to add, but I sure wouldn't dare use the salt water gargle cure with my new condition! so I'm lathering my hands with lavender-scented hand sanitizer and hoping for the best...

HANK: Yup. Gargling Salt water, and it does work.  And honey is miraculous. And SLEEP! Love it.  So Reds readers, any secret cures? Medicine, or not? Oscillococcinum? Zinc? And how are you all doing on winter colds and flu? Any victims yet? And any good cold remedies?  Do you believe in hand sanitizer? We need to make an arsenal of healing….weigh in on remedies!


  1. All of the above. Oscillococcinum has saved my bacon so many times. It's homeopathic, and you dissolve the contents of one tube, under your tongue. You just have to have "no other taste in your mouth" for twenty minutes before and after, which is a homeopathic thing that I don't understand. But it works for so many colds, flus and infections.

    Sore throats are soothed (but laryngitis not cured) by cold, sweet red bell pepper. It's the chemical capsaicin that does it, but I'm sure the Vitamins A, D and C don't hurt.

    Hank, have you ever heard of Singer's Saving Grace? It's a throat spray that I used to carry with me on my lecture tours. Also homeopathic, but it was recommended to me by someone who would never dream of using anything at all woo-woo. I have found it at health food stores, or wherever you buy good vitamins.

    Feel better soon, my dear, both you and your good Jonathan.

  2. Oh, dear . . . I hope you and Jonathan are both feeling better soon!
    Fortunately, so far we’ve been successful at dodging the winter colds and flu, but our favorite laryngitis remedies include drinking lots of room temperature water to keep your throat moist; hot ginger tea or lemon tea; throat lozenges; not talking.
    I don’t like hand sanitizer and never use it . . . .

  3. I'm a big believer in ginger/chamomile tea mixed at a great tea room named Medley, across the way from Annie Bloom's Books in Portland. I was introduced to it by frequent commenter Cindy Brown, who lunches there regularly with other frequent commenter Lisa Alber. It's a bit on the "girly" side but when you're not feeling well it's nice to be fussed over with bone china cups and one-of-a-kind teapots with knitted/crocheted cozies.

    But any ginger/turmeric tea will do in a pinch; New Seasons carries a great organic version if you can't make it all the way to Portland (although you all should come as part of your book tours...and I'll even be your squire, as I have done for Rhys and Cara Black during their visits here).

  4. Sorry to read and hope you are recovered soon. I wash my hands all the time. Purell is my friend.

    I have no advice to offer, though. I used to lose my voice all the time when I was younger. I still have trouble making it through even a short reading without water. I will look up Singer's Saving Grace, because that sounds helpful.

  5. Feel better, Hank, Jonathan, and Debs. I barely dare to say that I haven't had a cold or the flu in a long time (furiously knocking on my wooden desk!). But when I feel that scratchy throat coming on, I take Kold Kare. It's a Swedish herbal remedy whose active ingredient is andrographis paniculata. If I take it early enough - bam , it knocks the germs over and sends them packing. No idea how, but it works. I also swear by bourbon in my tea with honey and lemon.

  6. Salt water gargle, yes! Honey and ginseng tea, honey and lemon tea. Also, a teaspoon of pure honey--for a cough or sore throat. And lysol (or similar) wipes on every surface touched communally--light switches, doorknobs, sink taps, etc. This last works wonders when one of us comes down with a cold, flu, etc.--no one else gets sick.

    Hope you all feel better sooner!

  7. Yes, Oscillococcium is so wonderful--I use it ALL the time! I insist it has staved off colds…even Jonathan is a fan. SOme pooh-pooh it--I say, well, try it. I didn't know that about "no other tastes" though--but I do it that way anyway.

    Singer's Saving Grace, huh Karen? I will go check it out instantly. Thank you!

  8. Yes, Joan, I agree, too. I'm not sure about hand sanitizer. I use it hospitals, I must admit. But in general, I don't. (Is that why I have laryngitis? I am told it is not contagious. But the other day in the edit booth, I heard my interview with a HUD official--and I was "amused" to hear her voice sounded just like mine does now. ( I AM getting better, as Hallie can attest. We did a wonderful event together yesterday…and, sadly, had to use the same hand mic. Hallie was very brave about it.

    I know Lucy/Roberta is a big user of it--Lucy, when did that start?

    ANd what do you all think?

  9. Christopher Lord! Nothing could make me happier. Let me try to wrangle Portland on the the new tour--you know, I have never been there!f

    And I have been almost mainlining camomile tea--but didn't know about the ginger!

    SO I see Ramona is in the Purell faction, hmm, that's a big vote!

    Edith, is Kold Kare little whlte pills that you dissolve?

  10. FLora, yes, honey seems to be miraculous for this--I could not have gotten through my Chamber of Commerce speech without it! And a couple of years ago this same thing happened before a big big speech in Florida. The head of the GWFC gave me a cup of hot water and honey and aid--you can do this. And it worked! DOes it just coat your throat, you think?

    Hmmm. I wonder it that was at the same time of year? I used to get sick every Thanksgiving. Now my life is different--wonder if my sick-clock has reset to Feb?

  11. SO--just checked out Singers Saving Grace and it seems to come in various flavors: cinnamon, honey, honey-citrus and mint. ANd original. Anyone know ii there's a best choice?

  12. Oh oh, now I am dying to visit Portland too! Look out Christopher...

    My sister tells me I shouldn't use all the hand sanitizer--it kills the good germs with the bad. But I can't help it:). And I use EO lavender brand so it smells good and doesn't dry out your skin. When Hallie and Jennifer McMahon went on tour together, I brought Jennifer over to the dark side too:).

    Now I have a lot of new remedies to try!

  13. No, Kold Kare pills are kind of green, actually. You swallow them. I hit it with two the first time, then one every few hours around the clock for a day or two. Works a charm.

  14. Strong black or ginger tea with honey is my go-to remedy for almost anything. And yes, sleep. A shot of bourbon probably wouldn't hurt. =)

    We spent most of December passing germs around my house. Worst Christmas vacation ever.

    I am not a fan of hand sanitizer. It's okay in a pinch, but good old soap and water (and not antibacterial soap either) is still the best.

  15. So many great treatments!
    I once got severe laryngitis in the middle of a writing conference - I'd given one workshop and had 2 more to go. I kept going to the hotel bar for hot water an lemon. I made it through but barely.

    I google an discovered Madonna, Celine Dion, and Perez Hilton have had to cancel gigs on account of laryngitis. Also cracked up at this "cure": "Develop listening skills"

  16. To clarify, I wash my hands with soap (no antibacterial) at home. Hand sanitizer is for away from home. I LOVE that they have the towelettes at the supermarket. If you think of all the people who have touched those carts....

  17. This is funny ... I don't think I've ever had laryngitis ... Noooooo, that can't be true--can it? In any case, it's been years and years. My issue is my sinuses so when I get sick, I get the worst headaches from having a stuffed up head. (Spring allergies don't help either.) My larynx is one robust specimen of larynx-dom, my sinuses, not so much. :-)

    Anyhow, my secret? The neti pot! It feels so good. I use it every night before bed whether I need it or not, and I swear that I've been healthier this winter season. No head colds so far, fingers crossed. I think I sleep a little better too.

    Ultimately, here's my #1 secret for all of this: Enough good sleep, like you mentioned, Hank. I'm the worst for getting to bed at a decent hour, but I keep working on that habit.

    Hope you feel better soon, Hank and Jonathon!

  18. SO funny! I have to admit, going to an event with (non-contagious) laryngitis is sort of..relaxing. I indicate I have laryngitis. I shrug, I cannot talk. It is SO much fun not to have to make sure I keep up my part of the conversation. It's an entirely different event.

    Edith, I'll try those too!

    Ramona, I love the towelettes, too. I used to carry ten in my purse. But then I'd worry that they;d dried out--you know how they sometimes do? But you can't find out until you've opened them, hand at that point, it's too late.

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  20. Thank you,Lisa! Yes, sleep is wonderful in many ways… (And indeed, Jonathan is sleeping right now!…no, wait, I hear footsteps..)

    And I've seen neti pots--but what do they do? ANyone else use them?

  21. They clear out your sinuses. You fill them with tepid salt water, pour into one nostril, let the water come out the other nostril, then reverse. It sounds frightful, but once you get use to the initial weird feeling of water going up your nose (always reminds me of childhood play in swimming pools), it really feels great. I'm kind of addicted to it. :-)

  22. Oh, Lisa. That sounds..terrible. I have to admit. It feels great? Huh. Well, then… Wait. What does it do?

    ANyone? Anyone?

  23. I'm a big fan of the Neti pot, but it does feel weird. It keeps the nasal passages moist and irrigated so that germs cannot congregate there.

    And my son is developing a purely natural hand sanitizer that does not dry the skin. When it's ready I'll post a link to their website.

  24. Hah, Hank -- it does sound terrible. Took me a while to get up the nerve to try it for the first time. Rhys is right on about it. Especially useful for people with allergies and general stuffiness issues.

  25. Oh, poor Hank and Jonathan! I second (third?) the neti pot. Not as weird as it sounds and works wonders. Also, maybe this is your body's way of saying, "TAKE SOME TIME OFF, WOMAN!" Just saying....

  26. Well, Susan, I think you may be right. :-) It's so funny--to be a reporter/speaker and have laryngitis IS a bit of a message. It's really the only thing (kind of) that stops you completely in your tracks. Even one's news director boss has to admit there's no way.

    Noel doesn't have to worry about it, right? Or does he?

    Rhys, that would be great. So clearly he believes in the value of hand sanitizer...

  27. Oh, Hank and Jonathan and Debs and Rick. So sorry you all are having throat and cold issues. I've had the salt gargle preached to me most of my life, and although I hate it, it does help. I have an herbal tea called Throat Coat that is heavenly for irritated throats. Of course, add some honey to it for maximum effect. My kids like the Zinc lozenges from the health food store. I'm just coming off of that terrible cold, Debs, and it is a doozy. I can't stress enough how important rest is for getting better.

    Karen, I'm making a note of the Oscillococcinum. Singer's Saving Grace sounds like an item I should have, too. Edith, it looks like I need to have some of that Kold Kare. Rhys, please let us know when the natural hand sanitizer is available. I've heard so many mixed reports on using hand sanitizer, but a natural one sounds like the way to go.

    Feel better, dear Hank and Debs!

  28. Oh, thank you!

    Still trying to choose a flavor of Singer's Saving Grace..any thoughts?

    And I am off to do a Skype interview for the next hour,,,so talk among yourselves and I will be back! SO funny--the book club will have no idea of reality--they'll see my black sweater and pearls..but not my sweatpants and Uggs!

  29. Hank, just don't get up to fetch a book off a shelf while you're on camera!

    Neti pot - I tried, since I'm the allergic/stuff up type. Could Not Do It. I almost threw up. I kept trying but I felt like I was drowning. I'm glad it works for many. Not my remedy, unfortunately.

  30. Lisa, I have allergies too (like right this minute!). I bought a neti pot years ago but cannot work up my nerve to use it. My husband used one forever but now he has graduated to a squeeze bottle with a saline solution in it. I might could handle that. I think my aversion to introducing liquids to my nose originates to the incident of the strawberry pop coming out of my nose as a kid. Don't ask. Get well soon everyone.

  31. Oh Edith, that's the worst feeling. My thought on that, and what helped me, was to consciously think about breathing through my mouth (make sure it's open!) before beginning.

    Pat D, oy, strawberry pop?! That would make me leery of anything near my nose too. Yeeks. That said, I've heard the squeeze bottle makes it reeeally easy. :-)

  32. I bought a Neti pot but am afraid using it will aggravate my Meniere's Syndrome vertigo. As Lucy can attest, you get really paranoid about anything that might mess with your inner ear/balance system. So I do saline mist all the time which generally seems to work pretty well--except it didn't keep me from getting this stupid cold.

    I used to use Oscillococcinum but had kind of forgotten about it. Going on my list, as is Kold Care. Although am hoping that I won't be susceptible to any more colds this season!

    I read somewhere that using those zinc lozenges can permanently damage your taste buds. Anyone else heard that?

    Rhys, I want to know about the all natural lavender scented hand sanitizer that doesn't dry your hands. Fabulous! I don't like sanitizer and usually just wash my hands every time I get a chance, but with the baby and this cold I've bought some for the house and my purse. I hate it, though, and HATE the artificial perfumy smell.

    If you start thinking about all the things you touch and don't clean, like phones, keyboards, TV remotes, fridge handles, doornobs, light switches, it's enough to make you go nuts.

  33. Hank, anything but the original of the Singer's Saving Grace. It tastes terrible. Any other flavor would have to be better.

    The spray is a handy size, too, and fits into even a tiny purse.

    Debs, I have the sense that a Neti pot wouldn't do anything to trigger vertigo, as I have a tendency to get it myself. It's never done so before. But between Vitamin D3, Oscilloccinum, and the Neti pot, I have only had one (very brief) cold in the last eight years. And I used to get at least one cold and every version of the flu every year before then.

    The secret to using the Neti pot is to breathe through your mouth, lean over the sink with your head turned to one side, and to be patient. It takes a few seconds for the warm salted water to make its way into the sinuses on one side and out again on the other, but then it will begin to flow, flushing out the crud on the way. It's a messy business, but it honestly should not make you feel uncomfortable in the least, if you do it correctly.

    If you are leery of those antibiotic hand sanitizers, you could use something with tea tree oil and/or lavender, as they are both natural antibiotics. I've been using a fabulous hand cream from the Body Shop that is supposed to also take the place of a sanitizer. It's the Absinthe variety. Smells wonderful, too. I'll be taking some with me to Europe, since it will perform a double duty.

  34. Yes, but we have to touch those things…and it's all fine, you know? Yeah, yeah, until it isn't.

    ANd hmm..I'm not a fan of zinc, somehow. But I hadn't heard that, Debs!

    Someone one Facebook just told me a tried and true remedy is to chop a few cloves of garlic into fine bits, and the spread that on toast and eat it.

    Not doing that. Really. I'd rather have strawberry pop through my nose. PAt D, which would be worse? :-)

  35. Sinuses <---> Inner ears (Meniere's), almsot 100% sure no connection. If there were, we'd leak snot out our ears. Can. You. Imagine? YUCK.

    Ick, but hahahaha -- the ten-year-old me is giggling.


  36. Throat Comfort Tea is good for the throat, when you have time to brew tea. Singer's Saving Grace is much favored by storytellers also, flavor is a matter of personal preference. I think I didn't like the citrus one, perhaps expected too much of it.
    I've found neti pots awkward, so I use Nasopure, much easier for me, for twice-daily care of the hard-working nose. It has dramatically reduced sinus infections and laryngitis, especially when I taught six classes a day in a moldy building. I sometimes taught with laryngitis, such cooperative students! How are your mime skills? Hope all is well soon.

  37. :-) Oh dear. I can't get the picture out of my head ... I must to work!

  38. Yes, dear Mary, my mime skills are improving! You should see me do "martini." And poor thing--your voice must get such a workout!

    Lisa, with you, sister. YOUR FAULT.

  39. I'm picturing a lot of things right now. SyFy channel in my brain. Help.

  40. Tea, decaf is better, add honey, lemon and whiskey

    hubby gargles with whiskey and swears by it along with the hot toddies and chicken broth

    Chicken soup - yes it really does help, chicken broth will help just as well if you don't want the noodles and chicken in the soup

    if sore throat is bad - use Chloraseptic (sp) spray - numbing spray

    Try to avoid talking - which I know can be hard in some jobs, but resting the vocal cords does help

    Hope you feel better soon <3

  41. Yes, sigh, I know resting my vocal cords is the right thing..sigh.

    And thank you, Mar! I cannot tell you how wonderful chicken soup sounds. And…whiskey. But gargling with whiskey? Can't hurt, I guess…