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Airway Clearance: Coughing Techniques

Airway clearance techniques help to remove mucus from the airways. Clearing the airways helps to improve breathing and lessen the chance of infection. One method is controlled coughing. Be sure to also use any medications before or after clearing your airways, as instructed by your health care provider. For example, some people use inhaled bronchodilators before clearing their airways. 

 

Woman sitting in chair, leaning slightly forward and coughing.

Controlled coughing

  • Sit on a chair with both feet on the floor.

  • Take a slow, deep breath through your nose and hold for 2 counts.

  • Lean forward slightly.

  • Cough twice — 2 short coughs.

  • Relax for a few seconds.

Repeat the steps as needed.

The “huff” technique

  • Sit on a chair with both feet on the floor.

  • Take a slow, deep breath through your nose and hold for 2 counts.

  • To exhale, open your mouth and make a “huff” sound in your throat. (This is the same way you might breathe to clean a pair of eyeglasses.)

  • Huff 2 to 3 times as you exhale.

  • Relax for a few seconds.

Repeat the steps as needed.

Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 7/23/2014
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.