How To Keep Your Cold At Bay During A Performance
Ideally, no one should be performing with a cold. In addition to giving yourself a break to recover, performing with a cold exposes fellow musicians and others to your germs. Realistically speaking, musicians have to be pretty sick to cancel their attendance at scheduled concerts or recitals.
Therefore, it’s wise to learn a few tricks-of-the-trade on how to keep a cold or illness at bay during a performance. The following tricks go beyond the typical, “take over-the-counter cold and flu meds,” which are also recommended as long as your physician approves.
Minimize contact with sick people
Most colds and flu take about 24- to 72-hours (or more) to incubate and make themselves known after exposure. That means the kiss you gave your sick parent over the weekend, or the popcorn you shared with your significant other at the movies, can take you down the week afterward.
While it’s always good to be germ conscious, be especially diligent in avoiding direct contact with anyone who’s sick or exhibiting symptoms of a cold, and avoid sharing food/drinks, for the weeks leading up to the concert.
Get good sleep and eat nourishing foods
To fight the offending bug, your immune system needs to be in good shape. Unfortunately, it can’t be whipped into shape overnight. Instead, you are better off making concert season lifestyle choices that support healthy immune function. Be diligent about sleeping well (at least 7 to 9 hours per night) and eating nourishing foods in the weeks and days leading up to concert season. Once you feel a hint of a cold, focus your energy on napping if you can and getting to bed earlier than normal.
Medical News Today created a list of 15 Foods to Boost Immunity, including blueberries, dark chocolate (hooray!) and leafy greens – all of which are high in antioxidants – so incorporate those into your diet. And, it goes without saying that you should avoid smoking, alcohol and recreational drugs.
Drink herbal teas for colds, flu, throat, and respiratory support
Playing your instrument well is linked to healthy breathing and smooth, fluid bowing. Both of these become compromised if your cold includes bouts of coughing. Well-known tea companies, such as Traditional Medicinals and Celestial Seasonings offer herbal teas that contain ingredients known to soothe sore throats and irritated respiratory tracts.
Drinking these herbal teas throughout the day – and during concert breaks – can help to support your afternoon and evening performance schedule.
Sip on chicken soup
Vegetarians won’t be able to adhere to this one, but several studies have shown that homemade chicken soup really does help to fight colds. In addition to thinning mucous and improving respiration, the ingredients in homemade chicken soup seem to inhibit the body’s inflammatory response.
In fact, at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, lead researcher Stephen Rennard, M.D. put his mother-in-law’s homemade chicken soup in test tubes with neutrophils (white blood cells, which can multiply in hyper-drive with inflammation is up). His team found the soup molecules slowed and stopped the movement of white blood cells by as much as 75%!
Wear a medical mask
This tip might not mesh with your program’s concert dress code, so check with your conductor or teacher first. However, wearing a medical mask is a double-preventative – they protect you from inhaling airborne bacteria and viruses, and it keeps you from spreading yours to others. They’re available for sale at any neighborhood pharmacy.
It’s a good idea to wear one in group rehearsals if you notice your neighbor or a significant number of musicians are coughing or noticeably ill, and when you are coming down with something. You can always take the mask off during the performance if your teacher prefers.
Finally, dressing warmly supports your immune system, conserving the energy used to warm your core for fighting off your cold. If rehearsals and/or the concert take place in notoriously cold venues, layer up – wearing tights or thin, long-sleeved shirts underneath your concert dress and wear a scarf and hat until it’s time to perform.
Skip extreme workouts
Similarly, if you have a cold and an upcoming concert, skip the workouts. It’s better to conserve that energy for rehearsing and performing. Instead, fill your typical workout time block with a nice, restful nap or meditation.
Here’s to a cold-free concert season. But, in the event you do wind up with the sniffles, aches and a cough, we hope these tips will help to keep the cold at bay during showtime.