Q: Is it OK for me to sing when I have a sore throat?
A: Depending on what's causing it, singing with a sore throat can be catastrophic. I tell my clients, "if it hurts to swallow, don't sing!" Conversely, if it's a mildly soar throat, consult your doctor (it's a good idea to find a good ear, nose, throat specialist in your area and build a relationship with him) and then use your best judgment. Dry air, singing abusively, and viral/bacterial infection are some of the more common causes of a sore throat. Some people just wake up with a sore throat every day of their life. I've found that the majority of those people have acid-reflux, which means they are burping up stomach acids while they are sleeping or sometimes even while they are awake. For most, however, this happens in the night, so they may be completely unaware of the problem. They then wake up with a scratchy, raspy voice and a sore throat. There are numerous web sites directed to the problem of reflux. Let me recommend a couple:
Because a dry throat is often a sore throat, consume two to three quarts of water every day. I actually drink up to a gallon or more a day. If you live in an arid climate, sleep with a humidifier next to your bed and try to warm up your voice in the shower. The moisture is an incredible help for your voice. Also, learn to breathe in through your nose as much as possible. This will help moisten the air before it reaches your cords.
The next concern is vocal abuse. Some of the causes are singing too high and too loud for too long, screaming, yelling at a football game or concert, talking at the top of your voice in a noisy crowd, breathing cigarette smoke (first- for second-hand), doing voice impersonations that are extreme or that cause strain and talking or singing with a raspy, manufactured sound. Whenever my throat is sore from vocal abuse I try to get some vocal rest, drink plenty of liquids, and then rehabilitate my voice with gentle exercises like humming, lip bubbles, and tongue trills. If you get laryngitis and your tone starts to 'skip' or 'cut out' in the middle of a sustained note, you really want to get serious vocal rest. Most of all, ALWAYS consult your physician if things don't clear up rapidly. By this, I mean, if you get a sore throat in the morning and it clears up by noon and doesn't come back (this occasionally happens to me) then there's usually nothing to worry about. Otherwise, call the doctor, because if this condition is medical and you don't get help, no amount of vocal rest will help. I personally prefer herbal immune system remedies, but do what works best for you.