One of the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is increased mucus production. Along with increased mucus, people with COPD often develop symptoms, including:
• Shortness of breath
• Chest tightness
Mucus trapped in the airways can make all these symptoms worse. Getting mucus out of the lungs is vital to reduce the risk of complications, such as pneumonia, and also to improve quality of life.
In some cases, people with COPD can have mucus that becomes thick and sticky, which makes it even more challenging to get out of the lungs. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to cope with mucus, including the tips listed below.
Although exercise will not stop mucus production, it may prevent mucus from pooling in the lungs. Getting regular exercise also may help improve the strength of the muscles associated with coughing, which can enhance cough efficiently.
Drink plenty of fluids:
Drinking plenty of fluids may help thin the mucus, which makes it easier to bring up. Water is best, but other fluids may also help, such as clear broth and decaffeinated tea. Keep in mind; some people with certain medical conditions may have fluid restrictions. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations on how much fluid you can drink each day.
Use a mucus clearing device
Mucus clearing devices increase pressure in the airways and also create a vibration. The vibration helps break up the mucus and make it easier to cough out.
Various mucus clearing devices are on the market, including the Acapella and the Aerobika. Although the devices are slightly different, they all work similarly. You place the mouthpiece in your mouth and exhale into the device. You should feel a vibration in your chest, which might give you a feeling like you have to cough.
Do a huff cough:
The huff cough is a coughing technique that may help you bring up mucus more effectively with less fatigue. To do a huff cough:
• Sit up straight.
• Take a deep breath in and hold for a few seconds.
• Let a forceful burst of air out, saying the word “huff.” Making the ‘ha” sound helps keep your throat open.
• Try to do a series of two to three huff coughs.
• Repeat the process if you cannot cough up any mucus.
Try a bronchodilator:
A bronchodilator is a breathing medication that relaxes the muscles around the airways. As the muscles relax, they dilate or widen the lungs. Bronchodilators do not affect mucus production. But as the airways widen, it might make it easier to get trapped mucus out of the lungs.
Usually, most people with COPD benefit from using more than one of the techniques above. Using a combination of strategies is often the most effective way to treat mucus with COPD.
If the above techniques do not help get mucus out of the lungs, there are additional things your physician may recommend, including different combinations of medications or devices. It is also essential to talk to your doctor if you have a change in mucus production, including:
• Consistently (thicker than usual)
As always, work together with your doctor to develop an effective COPD action plan, including efficient ways to deal with mucus and improve the effectiveness of your cough.