9 Ways to Keep Your Airways Clear and Lungs Clean

If sputum, a mixture of mucus and saliva, is not cleared from the lungs, it can cause ongoing inflammation. This can lead to further lung damage and deterioration in lung function. Keeping lungs as clear as possible to maintain lung health can make a big difference in those with COPD. Here are some tips!

Drinking water

Drink water

It's important to drink at least two quarts of water a day to help clear mucus. But first, check with your doctor to make sure this amount works with the rest of your treatment plan.

Doctor writing a prescription

Take an expectorant or mucolytic

These types of medications may make phlegm thinner and easier to cough up. There are varying types that can either be ordered by your doctor, or you can take a non-prescription expectorant if your doctor says it’s okay.

Old man coughing while sitting on couch

Use proper cough technique

This will require you to sit up straight, then bend slightly forward using your elbows for support. A straight chair with armrests works well to get the proper posture.

Sick businesswoman

Do not lie down when coughing

Coughing is much more effective when sitting up and reduces risk of complication.

A man in a business suit coughing

Use the Huff Cough technique

The Huff Cough technique is a series of mini-coughs, as opposed to one big cough, and can help to clear mucus. The technique is described as taking a deep breath in (holding for a few seconds) then, focusing on the stomach, use muscles to make quick exhalation bursts with a “ha” sound. A respiratory therapist will be able to show you.

Coughing senior man

Ask your doctor if Percussion and Postural Drainage might help

This is a process used to remove mucus from the lungs into the airways so they can be coughed out. Certain drainage positions, percussion, deep breathing, and coughing are all used in this technique.

Patient coughing in doctor's office

Use an airway clearance device

Your doctor or respiratory therapist might recommend the use of a hand-held mechanism that vibrates and loosens the mucus to make it easier to cough out. There are several devices available, all requiring a prescription. commonly used devices include Acapella® and Flutter®, although there are others.

Washing Hands

Take time for your bronchial hygiene

Just as you take time to wash your face or brush your teeth each day, take the time to for your lungs. Use this time to practice airway clearing techniques or therapies to keep airways clear.

Doctor examining coughing patient with stethoscope

Keep your lungs clean and clear of excess mucous

Coughing up mucus, unpleasant as it is, is essential when you have COPD. Do all you can to clear your lungs so you can stay as healthy as possible with COPD.

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HealthCentral's team of editors based in New York City and Arlington, VA, collaborates with patient advocates, medical professionals, and health journalists worldwide to bring you medically vetted information and personal stories from people living with chronic conditions to help you navigate the best path forward with your health—no matter your starting point.