Vocal hygiene: looking after your voice

What do I do if my voice does not improve?

If you are concerned that your voice has not returned to normal, please contact your GP and ask to be referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor.

Things you can do which help:


Try to drink 2 litres (3 ½ pints) of liquid a day (not including coffee, alcohol or fizzy drinks). This will prevent dehydration of your throat and your vocal cords.

Tip: Carry a bottle of water with you or ensure that you always have a glass of water on your desk.

Save your voice not your legs

Avoid shouting over background noise or from room to room. This can strain your voice.

Tip: Turn down the TV when having a conversation.

Voice rest

If your voice feels tired or strained then rest it. This is your body’s way of telling you to rest your voice.

Tip: Find some time during the day to rest your voice, for example during lunch, or in
the car.


This helps hydrate the throat and vocal cords.

Instructions: Half fill a large bowl or sink with water that has just boiled. Sit comfortably and cover your head, shoulders and the bowl with a large towel. Breathe in and out through your mouth. Continue until the water stops steaming.

Try to do this twice daily or more often if your throat is especially irritated. For a quicker option when you are on the go or at work, fill a cup with steaming water.

Two drops of camomile essential oil or one tablespoon of camomile flowers can also be added as camomile contains a natural anti-inflammatory agent. Do not add any other oils, such as Olbus, to the water as these will irritate the vocal cords.

Hot compress

This will help to soothe an inflamed or painful throat and to improve the blood circulation, which helps to reduce inflammation.

Instructions: Fill a basin with hot water, soak and wring out a face flannel, fold it up and press it to your throat. Hold it there until it cools down. Repeat three to four times. If you find this helpful, try to do it several times a day, especially when your throat is sore or tired.

Get enough sleep

Fatigue can cause the voice to sound hoarse.

Take adequate breath when speaking

Take enough breath when speaking - do not speak in sentences that are too long so you are left to force out the words on too little breath.


Things to avoid:

Excessive throat clearing

Avoid clearing your throat unnecessarily. Constantly clearing your throat puts strain on the vocal cords as they are ‘bashed’ together. Also, it can create excessive mucous and lead to a further need to clear your throat.

Tip: Try to swallow, take a drink of water or suck a sugar-free sweet instead of clearing your throat.

Caffeine and alcohol

Avoid too much coffee, fizzy drinks, and alcohol. These can dry out the vocal cords.


Stop smoking. If you can’t give up, cut down. Smoking irritates and damages the vocal folds.

Tip: Visit your GP to support you to stop smoking.


Avoid chemical irritants and smoky, dry and dusty atmospheres as they may dry out the
vocal cords.

Tip: Wear a dust mask if you are in a dusty environment. Solvent based glues, perfumes, felt tip pen fumes, chlorine, paint, varnishes, bleach and other cleaning products can contain strong chemical fumes. Follow product advice on ventilation.

Throat lozenges

Avoid medicated throat lozenges as they numb the throat which allows you to do more damage. Menthol lozenges also have a drying effect.

Tip: Sucking sugar-free sweets (boiled sweets not medicated) and chewing gum helps to stimulate saliva flow. Many people find that pieces of fruit relieve dryness as well. Try orange, lemon or grapefruit. If these are too acidic try apple, pear or cucumber.

Gastric reflux

Reflux or indigestion may affect voice quality and cause discomfort or a feeling of a lump in your throat.

Tip: Spicy or acidic foods may increase the likelihood of reflux that can irritate the throat and cause hoarseness. When eating spicy or acidic food, you should drink plenty of water. You should discuss your symptoms with your doctor as they may be able to prescribe medication to help.


A patient’s advice sheet by Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Papworth Road, Cambridge Biomedical Campus,
Cambridge CB2 0AY
Tel: 01223 638000