Simple Strategies For Improving Your Cough
RATE
Profile photo of John Bottrell, RRT

Some people with COPD tend to produce lots of mucus and have trouble coughing it up. This mucus can obstruct airways, increase your risk for developing lung infections, and may cause flare-ups.

Here are a few simple strategies for improving your cough that you can do by yourself.  

 

  1. Hydration.  Most experts recommend drinking 8-10 cups of water throughout the course of the day. If you aren’t drinking enough, mucus can become thick and hard to cough up. Well hydrated airways produce mucus that is thin and easy to cough up. So, drinking plenty of water, and staying hydrated, is a key element to any strategy for improving your cough. However, just make sure you get permission from your doctor before increasing your fluid intake. 
  1. Diaphragmatic breathing. This is also known as abdominal breathing. Make sure you are breathing properly so that you can generate an effective cough. The most effective breathing strategy involves inhaling slowly through your nose while your diaphragm moves down and your stomach out. You should exhale slowly through pursed lips while your diaphragm moves up and your stomach in.
  1. Deep Cough. The best way to generate a cough is by sitting up in a chair. A chair is ideal to sitting on the edge of a bed because your feet will be supported, thereby enhancing your cough effort.  Make sure you are effectively doing diaphragmatic breathing. When you are ready, take in as deep a breath as you can through your nose (make sure your stomach goes out). Then, as forcibly exhale this air as your stomach goes inward. This mimics a natural cough and can help move secretions into your upper airway to be spit up.
  1. Huff Cough. Again, sitting in a chair is helpful. Make sure you are diaphragmatically breathing. When you are ready, take in a deep breath and hold it for a second to allow air to get behind the mucus. Then, exhale making three rapid huffs. It should sound like, “Ha, Ha, Ha.” Then you should continue to use diaphragmatic breathing. This should be repeated three times, or until the mucus is brought up. Some people with COPD find this method useful because it is less forceful and therefore less likely to irritate airways and cause shortness of breath.
  1. Flutter Valve Devices. Two common examples include Acapella and Aerobika, and they can be purchased online. They are light, handheld devices that you exhale into. When you do this, you will be exhaling against a pressure while feeling vibrations. The idea here is that the pressure and vibrations help to open your lower airways, break up thick mucus, knock it off airway walls, and force it up from to the back of your throat where it can easily be cleared with a cough. 

The best strategy for using one requires you to sit up in a chair with your feet supported. You should begin by doing diaphragmatic breathing while holding the device. When you are ready, take in as deep a breath as you can. Insert the device into your mouth and create a seal using your lips. Exhale into the device. You will feel some resistance and vibrations when you exhale. This should be repeated ten times or until you feel you need to cough. Use one of the coughing strategies described above if necessary.

Conclusion. The nice thing about all these strategies is they are all things you can easily do by yourself. They help keep your airways clear of secretions so you can breathe easier and live better with COPD. .

 

view references
  1. Kacmarek, Robert M., James K. Stoller, Albert J. Heuer, editors, “Egan’s Fundamentals of Respiratory Care,” 10th edition, 2013, Elsevier, pages 965-983
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2580042/, accessed 4/29/17
  3. National Jewish Health. Techniques to Bring Up Mucus. https://www.nationaljewish.org/healthinfo/conditions/copd-chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease/lifestyle-management/bring-up-mucus/, accessed 4/19/17
  4. Hristara-Papadopoulou, A., G. Diomou, O. Papadopoulou, “Current Devices in Respiratory Therapy,” Hippocratia, 2008, Oct-Dec., 12 (4), 211-220,
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2580042/, accessed 4/29/17
advertisement
SubscribeJoin 13,000 subscribers to our weekly newsletter.

Your username will be visible to others.


Reader favorites