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Your Asthma Medication May Not Be Your Friend

I am allergic to trees, grass, and dust. Or as my friend Michelle says, "the outside and the inside."

These allergies were identified later in my performing career [thanks to Vivian Chou at Illinois Asthma and Allergy!] and they explained so much. Every time I had worked in a theatre more than a few years old ( every time I worked in a theatre...), my voice had been fighting to work through excess mucus, irritation, and inflammation; it was pretty incredible to realize that some of the difficulty I had always had was not exclusively the material I was performing. My doctor put me on an oral antihistamine and an inhaled corticosteroid and it made a world of difference.

BUT HERE’S THE REST OF THE STORY: I noticed a difference-- a slight improvement-- in my voice when I was taking Advair. It was wonderful, like I had taken a steroid, which also made me a little nervous. When I was trying to get pregnant, my doctor had me switch to Pulmicort and now my voice is back to the way it's always felt; you know, not on steroids. While both are inhaled corticosteroids, Advair also contains a bronchodilator (it dilates the bronchioles, the small sacs in the lungs that inflate with air and distribute the oxygen to the blood). The two drugs also contain different types of steroids- Pulmicort is budesonide and Advair is fluticasone. A cursory glance around the web shows that some inhaled corticosteroids have been noted to cause voice loss (dysphonia). Here’s one cautionary tale, just to cite one example. This writer found that, for her, the sweet spot of vocal health lay in managing her allergy-induced asthma with a monthly allergy shot and an evening dose of montelukast (Singulair). My point is, first find out what you're dealing with and then really monitor how the management of your symptoms is impacting your vocal production. Sing smart, not hard.

Do you have allergies or asthma? How do you manage them for performances?

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