I am an Asthmatic Musician

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Along with being a severe asthmatic and respiratory therapist, I am also a musician and vocalist. I’ve played many musical instruments over the years from piano to violin to guitar to name a few. Guitar is definitely my love along with singing. Having asthma doesn’t stop me from pursuing my love for music although at times it can get in the way. I wanted to share some things I have learned over the years that have helped me:

Be prepared
Always make sure to have your rescue inhaler with you when you are at practice and performance. It’s a good habit to have it with you at all times regardless but especially when you’re doing anything potentially physical that might make you become short of breath. On the advice of my Pulmonologist I always take my Xopenex inhaler 15 min before starting rehearsal or performance (make sure to check with your doctor for his/her advice.) It’s also a good idea to let your bandmates (or conductor etc) know that you have asthma so they can be aware and can help you if needed.

Drink water!!
Water is your friend. It keeps you hydrated and your body ready to perform. I’ll admit I’m not as good at drink water as I would like to be. Although I will always have a bottle of water next to my music stand. Anyone who sings will tell you that after a song or two, cotton mouth definitely sets in. Drinking water also helps me keep my coughing at bay. Also, make sure to drink water (or tea if you like it) before you are ready to sing.

Know when to breathe
This is a big one. For many asthmatics like myself, we don’t have these big giant lungs with large capacities that are capable of holding a note for several measures. What I’ve found over the years is to figure out when I can “sneak in” extra breaths to help me get through the song and make it seem effortless. This will take practice. If you are singing with a choir or more than just yourself, this will be a lot easier. It if you are a soloist (like myself) if you aren’t sneaky the audience will notice. If you are in charge of choosing the songs you’ll be singing you can pick songs that have instrumental breaks in them or no long notes to hold. I know this is often times easier said than done. Just do your best and know that it will come with practice. Breathing exercises are an absolute must while conditioning your lungs for singing or playing an instrument that requires lung power.

Practice makes perfect
As I’ve already stated practicing is what will ultimately get you where you want to be. It will help you both lung wise and voice/instrument wise. Especially if you play an instrument and sing at the same time. My hat is off to those of you who play a woodwind or brass instrument because that takes a lot of lung power. But like singing, finding little places to take an extra breath will help you immensely. As my asthma got worse over the years & crossed over into the severe category I found it becoming more and more difficult to keep up. I play guitar while I’m singing. Normally it’s not difficult for me but as my asthma became more bothersome I was noticing it causing me to get short of breath easier, especially when playing songs with a quick tempo. In found what helped me was sitting or leaning on a stool rather than standing up the entire time. It was there when I needed it.

If you have any other advice or tips for musicians I would love to hear them! Add a comment below and let us know what has helped you over the years!

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