9 Ways to Keep Your Airways Clear and Lungs Clean

Seth Ginsberg | Oct 12th 2012 Jun 28th 2017

Reviewed by: Allen J. Blaivas, DO

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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!

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Drink water

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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.

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Take an expectorant or mucolytic

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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.

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Use proper cough technique

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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.

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Do not lie down when coughing

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

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Use the Huff Cough technique

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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.

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Ask your doctor if Percussion and Postural Drainage might help

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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.

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Use an airway clearance device

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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.

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Take time for your bronchial hygiene

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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.

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Keep your lungs clean and clear of excess mucous

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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.

NEXT: 8 Ways to Improve Quality of Life with COPD