Asthma doesn’t need to stop you doing the things you love. And we’ve heard from lots of people that singing or playing an instrument, particularly a brass or woodwind instrument, actually makes a positive difference to their asthma.
The scientific evidence is unclear for now – studies can’t yet prove that making music using an instrument you blow into, or singing, improves the way your lungs work or helps you breathe better. But early research is encouraging and suggests that singing has various benefits for people with asthma.
And lots of people with asthma say that singing or playing a musical instrument helps them to be more aware of their breathing and improves their posture. And if you find that stress triggers your asthma symptoms, the release you get from belting out tunes or spending time with other musical people could mean you feel calmer and more in control, which may mean you’re less likely to have an asthma attack.
“We hear from people with asthma who find singing helps them with their breathing, and with stress relief, but everyone is different so the only way to know is to give it a go. If you’re worried about your symptoms getting in the way, see your GP or asthma nurse before you try it,” says lead asthma nurse Caroline Fredericks.
- Take your asthma medicines as prescribed so your asthma symptoms are under control and don’t get in your way.
- Sing in the shower or try a karaoke night. You don’t have to join a choir to test out whether singing makes you feel good!
- Try singing in a choir. Search online for local choirs, or community singing groups, which are open to people without any experience. Your local GP surgery or hospital may also run a choir for people with lung conditions. And you could also check if there’s a British Lung Foundation Singing for Health group near you.
- Ask a music teacher about a taster session – and tell them you have asthma. If you’re not sure which instrument is for you, ask a local tutor for a taster session. They may also be able to arrange hire of an instrument so you don’t have to buy straight away. Before or when you arrive, explain to the conductor or teacher that you have asthma and what you will need to do if you have symptoms during the lesson. Even if you feel well, they may suggest places you can take an extra breath if you need to.
- Remember to carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) and written asthma action plan to your lesson or rehearsal. Take a photo of it on your phone – and share it with your teacher, or a ‘buddy’ if you’re in a choir or group.
If you haven’t played an instrument before, or for a long time, you might feel nervous about doing something that changes your breathing patterns. “If you find that singing or playing music triggers your symptoms, it could be a sign that your asthma isn’t well managed,” says Caroline. “Your GP or asthma nurse can suggest ways to make sure you don’t miss out – by tweaking your inhaler technique or making a small change to your medicines, for example.”
It’s good practice not to share your instrument with anyone else and to keep it clean of the saliva, dust and grime that can build up inside it anyway. If colds and viruses trigger your asthma, it’s even more important.
Not everyone who takes asthma medicines finds their voice is affected, but sometimes certain medicines can make your voice sound temporarily more hoarse than usual. This is much more likely to happen if you’re using your inhaler(s) incorrectly because the medicine hits the back of your throat or tongue rather than being inhaled into your lungs where it’s needed.
Here’s how to cut the risk of your asthma medicines affecting your voice:
- Check your inhaler technique with our handy expert videos. If you think you need a bit of help, go through it with your GP, asthma nurse or pharmacist. No matter how long you’ve been using your inhaler, they can be tricky to use. It might only take a tiny tweak to solve the problem.
- Try using a spacer with your inhaler – because less medicine hits your throat, this reduces the risk of voice changes.
- Every time you use your inhaler, brush your teeth, rinse out your mouth thoroughly and then drink some water afterwards.
Last reviewed May 2019
Next review due May 2022