Techniques to Bring Up Mucus

Reviewed by Barry J. Make, , Irina Petrache,

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic bronchitis often produce a large amount of mucus. If the mucus is allowed to collect in the airways, breathing may become difficult, and infection may occur. Techniques to remove mucus are often done after using an inhaled bronchodilator medication. The medication helps loosen the mucus and open the airways to make the techniques more effective. Common techniques used to help remove mucus include these, which can be ordered and demonstrated by your doctor.

  • Deep Coughing: Start by taking a deep breath. Hold the breath for 2-3 seconds. Use your stomach muscles to forcefully expel the air. Avoid a hacking cough or merely clearing the throat. A deep cough is less tiring and more effective in clearing mucus out of the lungs.

  • Huff Coughing: Huff coughing, or huffing, is an alternative to deep coughing if you have trouble clearing your mucus. Take a breath that is slightly deeper than normal. Use your stomach muscles to make a series of three rapid exhalations with the airway open, making a "ha, ha, ha" sound. Follow this by controlled diaphragmatic breathing and a deep cough if you feel mucus moving.

  • Other Techniques: If you produce a large amount of mucus, your health care provider may recommend other techniques to help clear the mucus.

    • Devices such as the Acapella® or Aerobika® are small devices into which you exhale.

    • Postural drainage is a technique that uses gravity to promote drainage of mucus from the lungs.

    • Each technique can be ordered and demonstrated by your health care provider. Ask your health care provider if this may be helpful for you.

  • Exercise is also a good way to help bring up mucus in the lungs. 


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