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Airway Clearance: Coughing Techniques

Airway clearance techniques may be prescribed to help move mucus up and out of the airways. Clearing the airways helps relieve shortness of breath and coughing. It also helps keep the lungs clean. Keep doing the technique until you have coughed the mucus up and out. For best results, use your rescue inhaler (if one has been prescribed) before doing these techniques.

Note: Be sure to keep a box of tissues beside you. Wash your hands when you are done.

Woman sitting in chair, leaning slightly forward and coughing.

Follow These Steps for 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.

Follow These Steps for the “Huff” Technique

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

  • Take a slow, deep breath through your nose and hold for two 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 glasses.)

  • Huff 2 to 3 times as you exhale.

  • Relax for a few seconds.

Repeat the steps as needed.

Online Medical Reviewer: Gomez, Wanda, RN, Ph.D.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 12/3/2013
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