A Little Hoarse

I was hustling to make a 1:45 p.m. call at Ford’s yesterday – pushing my way through the tourists standing in their usual state of utter confusion around the only open door, hurrying up the stairs, gaining the back of the house with seconds to spare. I inhaled deeply and suddenly felt like I’d sucked a dry, fluffy dust bunny down my throat. And coughed. And coughed. And coughed and coughed and coughedandcoughedandcoughed.

Naturally, this happened as I was about to go into a musical rehearsal. Fortunately it was ensemble stuff so I could hold back, but when I wasn’t singing I was coughing or clearing my throat. Miserable. I had a half hour break and got something to drink, but still I coughed. Coughed until I was released around 4:30, coughed on the subway, coughed on the walk home. Had a glass and a half of red wine with dinner which seemed to ease the coughing. Slept well but woke up feeling a little hoarse, a little phlegmy, a little hurty around the top of the throat.

Why does this always happen? I haven’t had to sing in nearly three months and I haven’t had any problems, but here I am doing a week-long musical workshop and with less than two weeks to go before rehearsals start for Assassins and I’m suddenly struggling with a respiratory thing.

I’m sure this is a seasonal allergy. I take allergy medicine 365 days a year, but when the springtime tree and grass pollens are really bad, sometimes allergy symptoms will break through anyway. That is when I turn to my good buddy the Neti Pot. You fill the Neti Pot with a warm saline solution, jam the spout into one nostril, lean over the sink with your head slightly tilted, and let the warm salt water run down the back of your nose, pool in the opposite sinus cavity and run out the other nostril. Give your nose a nice honkin’ blow and repeat on the other side.

Yes, this is where you say “Gah” and make wrinkly wince-y faces, but I swear to you that it works. If you’re congested, this will break up the gunk that’s making you miserable. If you’ve got a sinus infection, ditto. If you’re struggling with seasonal allergies like me, a little session with the Neti Pot will wash out the pollen particles that are making you sound like Moleman on “The Simpsons.”

Don’t think you have pollen particles inside your nose? What’s that faint greenish haze on your car hood? On your windows? On your shoes when you walk on the grass? That’s pollen, baby, and if it’s on all those things, you’re inhaling it, too.

I don’t normally prosetylize about stuff, but I have seen so many people doped up, dried out and dozy on over-the-counter allergy meds when a good sinus hosing would have eased their symptoms without the side effects. Neti Pots are cheap (you can get them at Whole Foods for under $20) and if you make your own saline solution with regular old table salt, the cost is minute. Yeah, you’ll feel like you’re drowning the first time you try it, but just relax and let the solution flow. My pot came with easy-to-follow visual instructions and I was Neti Potting like a pro after the first two tries.

I swear to you that this works. I dare you to take the twenty bucks you would have spent on allergy medicine and buy yourself a Neti Pot and a container of table salt instead. Let me know how it goes. It really works. Really.


  1. Editaur

    The Neti pot is a fabulous thing. I don’t have allergies as bad as yours, but when I get a bad head cold, it starts a chain reaction of being unable to breathe, unable to sleep, getting sicker, worse breathing, worse sleeplessness, etc. I get to the point where I’d like to cut my head open above the eyebrows and dig out my sinuses with a spoon.The Neti as you/I use it cleans only the lower sinuses. I’ve read that there are advanced Neti techniques for cleansing the upper portions, and one of these days I’m going to figure out how because that’s where the colds get me.I’m blanking on where, but I read an old article about health care the other day and it was illustrated, without explanation, with a Neti pot. So it’s not just some freaky, New Age thing recently introduced to the West by superannuated hippies.

  2. Joan L.

    It sounds great, but I don’t think I could bring myself to do it. Not after taking a BC powder for a headache once, accidentally coughing because it hit too far down the back of my throat, and having the entire thing shoot up into my sinuses (resulting in agonizing burning, uncontrollable tears and ultimately vomiting (which also went up into my sinuses). After that experience, nothing, but nothing goes in my sinuses.

  3. Sammy's Jay

    I just use a few blasts of saline spray and I don’t have to perform a demented version of “I AM A LITTLE TEAPOT”. I am hoping you find a way to incorporate the Neti pot (who is this Neti person?) into a bit of stage business somehow. I can’t imagine it not getting laughs.

  4. Tony Westbrook

    Well if it works it works. I guess we singers all have our ways of “cleaning house”.I hope the dustbunny is gone and didn’t leave any damage. Laaaahhhhh hack hack…LAHHHHHH

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