Your vocal cords require a thin layer of mucus for lubrication to work their best. When this mucus layer becomes too thick, it can cause discomfort, inconvenience or a need to clear your throat repetitively. Singers, performers and others who use their singing or speaking voice heavily are most affected by mucus problems in the vocal cords. There are steps you can take to minimise the problem of heavy mucus for optimum use of your vocal cords.
Drink lots of water. The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio recommends 6 to 8 eight-ounce glasses of water every day for professional voice users. The general rule of thumb is to drink water until your urine is pale in colour. Staying properly hydrated keeps the mucus layer on your vocal cords thin.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages have a dehydrating effect that robs your entire body of moisture, including your vocal cords, which leads to thickening of the mucus. Limit your intake as much as possible and drink more water to counteract the dehydrating effects when you do consume caffeine or alcohol.
Use a humidifier. Dry air due to climate conditions, indoor heating and air conditioning dries your vocal cords, again contributing to excess mucus. Run a humidifier at night while you sleep.
Talk to your doctor about reflux disorders and medications -- some medications will contribute to the problem and some may improve it. One possible medical cause of thick mucus in the vocal cords is acid reflux -- either gastro-oseophageal reflux disease (GERD) or laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LRD). Reflux can cause a mucus problem even if you don't experience heartburn, so talk to your doctor about diagnosis and treatments. Some medications contribute to excess mucus in the vocal cords by drying the vocal tract. Some of them include antihistamines and decongestants, but ask your doctor for information and advice about specific drugs.
Try not to cough or clear your throat excessively because throat clearing causes trauma to the vocal cords. Drink water or clear your throat as gently as possible by taking a deep breath and expelling it forcefully with an "H" sound. This sounds lets air flow through the vocal cords without letting them touch.
Don't smoke. Smoke inhalation is damaging to the lungs and the entire vocal tract.
Tips and warnings
- Try not to cough or clear your throat excessively because throat clearing causes trauma to the vocal cords. Drink water or clear your throat as gently as possible by taking a deep breath and expelling it forcefully with an "H" sound. This sounds lets air flow through the vocal cords without letting them touch.
- Don't smoke. Smoke inhalation is damaging to the lungs and the entire vocal tract.