COPD: Lifestyle Management

Techniques to Bring Up Mucus

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 3 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 healthcare provider may recommend other techniques to help clear the mucus.

    • Devices such as the Acapella® or Flutter Valve® are small devices you exhale into.

    • The Vest® and the Smart Vest® are inflatable vests that you put on that shakes your chest to help clear the mucus.

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

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