Keeping Your Kid’s Voice Healthy: Some Helpful Tips

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It happens in all homes or playgrounds. Kids, screaming, yelling, and making questionable loud noises. At times it’s out of excitement, other times to express frustrations. Additionally, some kids are loud talkers due to being in rowdy environments, like cheer practice, sporting events, and singing groups. These examples of excessive use of voice can lead to hoarseness, and if ongoing for a long time, can aggravate the vocal cords and lead to swelling and potentially more serious conditions like callous growths (a.k.a. nodules). If this happens, you’ll notice your child’s voice will be hoarse (that does not go away), breathy, or low in pitch. If you notice any of these conditions for more than seven days, with no other symptoms like allergies or respiratory concerns (like asthma or bronchitis), see your pediatrician.

How do we prevent voice problems from developing? After all, this is what kids typically do right?

A young girl with a megaphone (Keeping Your Kid's Voice Healthy: Some Helpful Tips Cindy Herde Contributor Miami Mom Collective)There are multiple ways to make sure your children use their voice safely. 

  1. Reduce noise in the environment when possible. By keeping TVs, music, and other noises down or limited, you can help reduce the need for loud talking or yelling to communicate with each other.
  2. If the environment is naturally loud, limit the need for talking. Older children can use devices like a phone to text, instead of yelling. Otherwise, step outside or out of the loud area if possible.
  3. Move closer to each other when talking, thus reducing the need to yell or talk louder.
  4. Implement periods of voice rest at home. Some families call it quiet time. Having an alternative quiet activity or offering prizes once the rest is completed could help with your children’s participation and compliance.
  5. Avoid using voice to make special noises or sound effects that are loud or do not sound like typical speech. 
  6. Stay away from second-hand smoke.
  7. Avoid foods or drinks that contain caffeine, like teas and sodas. Caffeine tends to act as a diuretic, making you urinate more, which can often dehydrate, including the vocal cords.
  8. Teach alternative ways of getting someone’s attention that does not require yelling. Strategies like moving within eyesight, tapping on the shoulder, or sending a text if the child is old enough for a cell phone or other electronic devices. 

As parents, we can help by:

  1.  Being vigilant of activities, times of day, or locations that cause our children to put a strain on their voices. 
  2. Model good voice use for your children at all times. 
  3. Offer lots of water and make sure kids stay hydrated.
  4. Offer a healthy diet, especially foods containing vitamin A. Foods that are high in vitamin A help keep your mucus lining around your vocal cords lubricated and healthy. You find vitamin A in yellow veggies like sweet potatoes and squash, or fruits such as mangos, melon, and peaches. It is also present in dark leafy greens like spinach and kale. If veggies and fruits are challenging, offer a vitamin A supplement. 
  5. Offer a small spoon of honey in water or decaf tea. It can be helpful to offer honey before an event that will require children to use their voice loudly, like cheer or singing lessons. Honey is good for preventing and soothing vocal strain, and its antibacterial qualities can help keep sore-throat bugs away.
  6. If your child suffers from acid reflux, limit or avoid foods that flare up acidity. The acid from reflux can creep up into the area of the vocal cords and cause irritation. These tend to be foods containing dairy, citrus, chocolate, spices, and caffeine. 
  7. Offer activities of relaxation that help reduce tension to the neck, face, and shoulders.
  8. If your child has any upper respiratory infections or allergies, refrain from using excessive loud talking, yelling, singing, or throat clearing. Resting the voice during these periods is important.

The average child will go through life screaming and yelling without any issues. However, if you do notice any of the red flags mentioned above, consult your pediatrician. Having a healthy voice is important and many voice issues in children can be avoided by following these simple recommendations. Happy singing… softly 🙂

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Cindy Herdé is a pediatric speech and language pathologist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami. She has over 15 years of experience working within various clinical settings in the pediatric feeding field. Throughout her professional career she has navigated the developmental feeding journey with countless families, working closely with pediatricians, gastroenterologists, nutritionists, lactation consultants, behavior analysts, and of course, parents and caregivers. Becoming a parent in the spring of 2015 completely transformed her professional perspective. She learned first-hand about the anxieties and concerns that come with parenthood. This shifted her focus from therapy to educating families and providers on how to overcome developmental feeding difficulties. As a result, she established her own pediatric feeding consultancy, /Talk Eat Play/, in 2016. Her articles have appeared in several professional publications as well as media outlets. She is a recurrent speaker at pediatric conventions and also an adjunct faculty member at Albizu University. Born and raised in Aruba, Cindy attended the University of Central Florida – Go Knights! – and has lived in different parts of the country, including Orlando, Boston, and Chicago. She now resides in Coconut Grove with her husband and two children.