Ep.98: Should I Sing When I am Sick?


If you’re a singer and performer, sooner or later you’ll probably have to sing when you’re sick. Inside this video I’m going to explain why singing sick may be the worst thing you can do.


Should I Sing When I am Sick? I damaged my cords during this performance.Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 12.56.17 PM


Several years ago I was performing the role of Captain Corcoran in Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore. It’s a great role with several solos, including an Ab4, which was a blast to sing.


Should I Sing When I am Sick?

During the month long run of the show, I developed a horrible cold with one of the worst sore throats I’ve ever had. It was a viral infection, and it affected my vocal cords. I preferred spitting to swallowing, it hurt so bad.


On a Monday about the 2nd or 3rd  week of the run, I completely lost the high A. I could not sing the note. It wasn’t a bad sound, there was no sound.


I was double cast and performed Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. My counterpart performed the other nights.


I called my counterpart and he did the show for me. I HATE MISSING SHOWS! In fact, in 19 years, that’s the only night I’ve had to give up a show.


Wednesday of that week, I still had a sore throat, although slightly improved, it was enough that I could hit the A.


So I took four Advil, which was 800 mg. of Ibuprofen, and did the show.  The problem with medications, among other things, is you can’t feel the pain, so you think everything is ok.


My voice was not the same afterwards. On my lower notes I had a gravelly, scratchy sound. The upper notes were harder to sing. My voice felt heavy and labored.  


Should I Sing When I am Sick? Vocal Damage!


Should I Sing When I am Sick? I damaged my cords!Should I Sing When I am Sick? I damaged my cords!

I finished the run of the show, but I knew something was wrong with my voice so I went to see an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor. He inserted a flexible scope through my nose and down my throat and said, “I’ve never seen this before. You have two nodules on the false cords”. They were located toward the front of my cords, one directly opposite of the other on each false cord.


Here’s a lesson for you: The ENT did not have a camera system that could print out a picture of my cords.

Later I wanted another ENT to check my cords. He asked me to send him a copy of my previous exam. I had no pictures to send him. He could make no comparisons of the healing of my cords.  

I will never go to any ENT again that can’t give me a photograph of my cords. Make sure the ENT can give you a photo of your examination.  It’s ideal if you can see an ENT that specializes in voice and better yet, works with singers.


Should I Sing When I am Sick? I damaged my cords!

I also had moderate laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR). This was preventing the nodules from healing.


The consequences of me singing sick were:


  1. My solos for the night of the show and the rest of the run were not my best.

  2. I got nodules on my false cords which caused scratchiness especially on the lower notes.

  3. For about 4-6 months my whole voice was heavier and it was more difficult to sing.

  4. I had to curtail my singing. Only moderate singing and vocalizing until my cords were healed.

  5. Started taking medications for LPR.

  6. I had Doctors expenses.


I could have done serious damage to my vocal cords. I could have gotten nodules on the vocal cords themselves which would have required complete vocal rest. I would have lost all the remaining performances and had to stop teaching for a period of time.


The better choice would have been to take one more night off and give my voice a few more days to heal.


The severity of injury can be much greater. Depending on the severity of your illness, the vocal demands you make on your voice, your genetics, conditioning and many other factors, you can damage your vocal cords more severely and cost you weeks, months, or years of singing.


Should I Sing When I am Sick? May Cost You Your Career


Should I Sing When I am Sick? It may cost you your career!

Surgery may be required, and it’s not always successful. Julie Andrews discontinued her singing career following surgery on her vocal cords.


When you’re vocal cords are sore, swollen and inflamed because of sickness, you must decide if it’s worth the risk. You must determine the ultimate cost. If you cancel the concert tonight, you may lose 100’s of thousands in income.


But maybe you’ll preserve your career. That might mean millions in revenue and years of performances. Perhaps taking one night off means you can keep going strong after a few days rest. Then you can fulfill your commitments in the coming weeks and be in good voice.


Basically, I recommend you not sing sick. Even though the cost may be high if you cancel, the cost may be far greater if you sing sick and damage your voice.


Only you can decide. I’d be interested in hearing your sick singing story. Please feel free to share it in the comments below.


If you are healthy and not sick, I invite you to take the vocal test, the PowerTest. Visit PowerToSing.com and take the quiz and discover your vocal type. That’s not your vocal classification, like soprano, alto, tenor or bass.


Your vocal type is what you tend to do when you sing through the first bridge of the voice. Then visit the Knowledge Center and watch the videos about your vocal type. Download the free exercises for your vocal type and start improving your voice today….but only if you’re not sick!


I’m Chuck Gilmore with Power To Sing.


You can sing higher with beauty, confidence and power. I’ll see you inside the next video.


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Chuck Gilmore

Chuck Gilmore

If you want to do more with your singing voice it is possible. This is the first and most important message. It is possible to achieve your dreams to sing better, to sing higher, and to add beauty, confidence and power to your voice!

I know this because I’ve experienced a real change in my voice. I am reaching my dreams to sing and perform. You can find happiness and fulfillment with your singing too!!


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  1. Hi Frances: Yes! Watch Ep. 99. I made some warmup exercises for when we are sick and have to sing. They are now available for download when you need them!

  2. So, if your only slightly sick, or maybe just a little hoarse from a bad performance/rehearsal, could you share some tips on singing without causing damage?

  3. Good stuff, Chuck. Thanks. I had to do a free show right after a bad chest infection. It was in January and was an outdoor show. It was not good and I was not at my best. The result was a mediocre show and I couldn’t do the runs that I usually do on those songs. Vocal rest is the best!

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