Tutorials

Lower lip is bleeding after performances

SBatTD

New Member
Messages
5
Hello, everyone! First time poster here.

I'd like to clarify my problem - I'm not referring to an injured lower lip caused by biting/weak embouchure.

Over the last few months, I'll pull the sax away from my mouth and my reed is (sorry, if this is graphic) just about saturated in blood. My lower lip is on FIRE. Very similar to severe chapped lips. The reed has damn near taken the top layer of skin off. My lip is dark red and raw exactly wherever the reed touched it. This is only after an hour or so of playing!

Why?

Is it reed fibers? Am I not preparing reeds correctly? They aren't wet enough?

Thank you for any help you can provide.
 

dave 645

Member
Messages
124
Hi and welcome to cafe. I have no idea why, and I am not medically educated, but having read your post my immediate reaction is are you allergic to the reed fibres? Try changing reeds, particularly the material that the reed is made from, and see what happens.
 

SBatTD

New Member
Messages
5
You know, I've been considering that for the last couple days. I never even considered that. An allergy really does make sense when I think about it. I played clarinet for ten years and that never happened. Ever.

I switched to alto sax to pursue jazz and I've been experimenting with different reeds the last six months and that's exactly when my bad reactions started. I go back and forth between brands/types frequently to see what works best but I never kept track of what brand I was using when I'd have these reactions. Looks like I have some investigating to do. Thank you for your suggestion, dave.
 

TomMapfumo

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,219
Partly it may be to do with how you prepare reeds. On the Alexander Superial website it does recommend breaking them in by soaking them for a few minutes in lukewarm water and then massaging them from back to front in order that the reeds can settle down in the same direction and become more compact. Then playing at lower volume for a couple of times with massages so that the reeds are compacted and feel very smooth to the touch. Soaking for a minute or so before playing is good and then massaging when needed. This should mean that there is nothing to in any way harm the lip. Just moistening the reed with saliva is not adviseable and may lead to the lip becoming slightly infected.

This is a possible reason for the efect that you describe - irritation and possible saliva entering your lip and causing some surface damage. Dave's explanation is also plausible. Do you use something called ChopSaver on your lips after playing - this can moisten and strengthen your lips and works well if you are playing a lot.

So, it could be the fibres of the reed causing problems. How often do you change reeds? Ideally you will have several prepared reeds on the go at the same time - say 4 which you could alternate, giving them all time to recover.

Hope this helps.
 

Tobes

Member
Messages
174
Agree with the above. I sand my reeds with some quite fine wet and dry paper (can get from Wilkos) - I do it to arrive at the right strength / sound if reed is too hard, but it also leaves the surface really smooth - lightly do the sides also.
 

SBatTD

New Member
Messages
5
I prepare my reeds just like that - a few minutes of lukewarm water with a massage and then quiet warm-up. I learned my lesson a few years ago that saliva just isn't enough. I've never used paper to sand them down. Generally, I leave them be after the massage.

I admit being lazy about alternating between reeds. I rarely have more than one or two good ones out a time. I will have to change that bad habit to see if it affects anything. This may very well be an issue stemming from lack of reed recovery time/settling in.

Right now I'm just using an overnight medicated chapstick. I've always wanted to try ChopSaver and I think today is a good day to pick up a tube!

I'm currently playing from a box of reeds that are giving me this terrible reaction. Tomorrow, I will do a proper treatment of a handful of new reeds from this box and see if anything changes over the next couple days. Thank you for your replies. I appreciate this feedback.
 

compound

Member
Messages
457
Hello, everyone! First time poster here.

I'd like to clarify my problem - I'm not referring to an injured lower lip caused by biting/weak embouchure.

Over the last few months, I'll pull the sax away from my mouth and my reed is (sorry, if this is graphic) just about saturated in blood. My lower lip is on FIRE. Very similar to severe chapped lips. The reed has damn near taken the top layer of skin off. My lip is dark red and raw exactly wherever the reed touched it. This is only after an hour or so of playing!

Why?

Is it reed fibers? Am I not preparing reeds correctly? They aren't wet enough?

Thank you for any help you can provide.

Hi,
I had the same problem though it didn't bleed, very sore all the time no matter what brand of cane i used. I changed to Hahn synthetic's and bingo never happened again, i haven't tried any other synthetic's so can't speak for them. As regards cane it happened if i sanded them or not. With this Hahn i've been playing for 5 month's now and still no problems. Maybe worth a try.

Rob.
 

Saxodent

Member
Messages
194
Certainly sounds like an reaction to me. Whether it is a true allergy or a sensitisation wuold need to be investigated.
If you played clarinet with no problems then it is unlikely to be the cane itself but they may have sprayed the reeds with some form of preservative which would cause a localised red patch with loss of the top layer . It could be a form of chemical burn.
I have seen similar reactions with patients sucking an aspirin and leaving it next to a tooth.
Has any part of your tongue got redness or ulceration?
Do you have Asthma or any other histamine type reactions?
If you do not do a bit of self experiment and it is an allergic reaction, the mouth is one of the most serious and dangerous places to get it.
Airways can close up.
Try plastic synthetic reeds or once seasoned apply some clear nail varnish to the area that goes on the lip.
You could also use a barrier cream or vaseline to avoid contact.
Maybe the manufacturer could shed some light on it. Possibly some form of insecticide?
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
My son has the same problem with clarinet. GP & dermatologist couldn't really shed any light on it. Tried cortisone cream, didn't help. Tried sanding the reeds, didn't help. We were warned by a reedmaker to only use good quality wet & dry or dutch rush, as the cheaper ones can leave abrasive in the reed, making the problem worse. Allergies and cold sores were ruled out. So my best guess is abrasion in his case. Blistex helped a little, but not much.

A friend suggested Compeed daytime "plasters" last week. They're a very thin, almost invisible membrane that you can leave on while you're playing. J's lip had barely healed and was too sensitive/sore to play. He gave the Compeed a try today. Worked a treat, he was able to play for an hour without pain and the lip didn't open up again. Compeed are a touch fiddly to apply. Although they're sold for cold sore treatment, there's no drug in them and they can be applied to a wet, open wound. We'll be keeping a close eye on this.

Compeed (and follow the other links on that site):
http://www.compeed.co.uk/compeed-coldsore/why-compeed

I did some research on them and similar treatments, this was a useful link, but there are lots of others as well:
http://www.worldwidewounds.com/1998/april/Hydrocolloid-FAQ/hydrocolloid-questions.html


Please let us know how you get on, Maybe you find something better. But do get your doctor involved as per saxodent's comments!
 

SBatTD

New Member
Messages
5
Dave - I have a Plasticover in the case. It was free. I played it for a few minutes to hear any tone difference. There wasn't a dramatic difference in sound, so I'm pretty neutral towards the synthetic reed.

Saxodent - I should have included this detail before, but yes, my tongue is just as bad as my lip after playing. Where it makes contact with the reed for articulation, it becomes red and raw as if I've dipped it into a mug of hot coffee. I don't have asthma or any known allergies.

I don't know a lot about the chemical/cane differences between reed brands. When I played clarinet, I generally played regular Vandorens. I never strayed. For the sax though, I've been all over the place in the last six months, searching for different sounds. Most of the reeds are "jazz" reeds - both filed and unfiled.

compound and kevgermany - Thank you for the information. I'm checking out those links now!

I'm kicking myself for not writing down the brands that I've reacted to. There's evidence that points toward allergic reaction but also towards poor reed preparation. Tonight I have a bar gig. It will last a few hours. I will bring the four reeds that I'm preparing now and see what happens.

Thank you all.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Sorry, I should have said, we also tried a plastic reed for our sone, but it didn't help. ymmv!

btw, saxodent is a dentist. Listen to him before the rest of us!

Plasticovers are cane reeds, coated in plastic. As opposed to Hahn etc. which are all plastic.
 

compound

Member
Messages
457
Sorry, I should have said, we also tried a plastic reed for our sone, but it didn't help. ymmv!

btw, saxodent is a dentist. Listen to him before the rest of us!

Plasticovers are cane reeds, coated in plastic. As opposed to Hahn etc. which are all plastic.
Kev i've checked and the Hahn reeds are Kevlar and Resin, don't know if that makes a difference.
Rob.
 

Saxodent

Member
Messages
194
I don't think there is anything in Cane to be allergic to.
The fact that your tongue is sore also points to some form of contact dermatitis or chemical burn.
Sanding reeds and seasoning them is all very well but the roughness of cane is pretty insignificant compared to quite a lot of foods that go into our mouths and touch our lips.
This is the first I have ever heard of it.
I would try a plastic reed although I find them a bit on or off.
Don't use cortisone cream on broken skin it gets absorbed into the blood stream.
It needs to heal first and then do some elimination /patch testing for each reed to see if it provokes a reaction.
If you are becoming sensitised then the whole lip will swell.This is serious and can lead to anaphylactic reactions.
The fact that it is localised to contact makes me think it is something the reed is treated with like a wood preservative or disinfectant to cause the rawness.
Discuss this mouth problem with your dentist not your doctor. Most of them know dont know where it is unless you say Ahh.
 

SBatTD

New Member
Messages
5
Hello, everybody. I just finished my bar gig and I've come back to report the results:

I carefully prepared four reeds from a brand that's currently giving me trouble. I was a lot more thoughtful than usual about soaking and massaging the reeds and warming them up properly and I think that had positive effects (my tone!). I still had a moderate reaction. All the symptoms I've been listing happened, but not to such a severe degree.

I mean, it's still quite painful but it's down from a 10/10 to a 7/10 on the pain scale. Clearly, reed preparation was a contributor, but I now consider that aspect fixed.

I'm visiting a dentist in a couple weeks so I'm still going to explore the option that I'm having an allergic reaction to something in these reeds. I'll try some other brands and keep track of what happens.

Thank you again for all your help and suggestions.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
A thought - what mouthpiece are you using? Is it metal, cos if it is there's a chance of nickel affecting you, and this would also affect your tongue where it contacts the mouthpiece/reeed tip.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Don't use cortisone cream on broken skin it gets absorbed into the blood stream.

Agreed. This was under dermatologist's orders.... And was specifically prescribed for it. My wife queried the use of cortisone and was told that there was not enough cortisone in the cream to cause problems.

I remain, as always with medical guesswork, completely unconvinced.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
I'm visiting a dentist in a couple weeks so I'm still going to explore the option that I'm having an allergic reaction to something in these reeds. I'll try some other brands and keep track of what happens.

As you were OK with clarinet on Vandoren, that would be a good starting point. As far as I know, all/almost all reeds use the same cane from the same region in France (google Arundo Donax). There must be something applied to the reeds in manufacture, as Ricos taste different to Vandoren straight out of the box...
 

Saxodent

Member
Messages
194
One thing you can try is something called Orabase from the chemist.It used to be mixed with a steroid and was fantastic for mouth ulcer treatment (Adcortyl in Orabase).It no longer has the steroid and does not need a prescription either.
it is like very thick honey but forms a barrier over raw mucous membranes to allow healing.
Eludril and Peroxyl are also good as mouth baths.Corsodyl can also help but it will stain your teeth which only a hygienist can remove.
You could try placing a small piece of the reed by you cheek in the mouth to see if it causes some form of ulcer/red patch to know.
Patch testing is common in allergic dermatitis elimination although they usually use your back.
I looked at the Vandoren website there is a video showing how they make reeds. It all looks pretty "organic " to me and free from pesticides etc.
 

Members online

Top Bottom