Cystic Fibrosis: Ways to Clear the Airways
People with cystic fibrosis can get lung infections and other respiratory problems because of the buildup of thick, sticky mucus that traps bacteria.
Talk to your doctor or respiratory therapist about airway-clearance methods and medicines that you can use to help get rid of mucus. Your doctor or respiratory therapist may suggest some things that you or your child can do at home to help clear mucus from the lungs. These include:
- Postural drainage and chest percussion, to help with coughing up mucus from the lungs. For specific instructions, see:
- Deep breathing exercises, to help with breathing out completely and to strengthen the muscles used for breathing.
- Directed cough, to help clear mucus by breathing and coughing in specific ways.
- Exercise. Aerobic exercise can improve how well the lungs work. Ask your doctor about what kinds of exercise you or your child should do.
Other methods use mechanical equipment to help clear mucus from the lungs. Examples include:
- High-frequency chest compression vest. You wear an inflatable vest that receives pulses of air from a generator. The tightening of the vest causes the chest to vibrate, and this helps loosen and clear the mucus from the lungs. This method can be done without the help of another person.
- Positive expiratory pressure (PEP) therapy. You breathe into a handheld device that raises the pressure inside the lungs. Examples of devices include a PEP valve, Flutter device, or Acapella valve. The devices work in slightly different ways to help loosen and clear mucus from the lungs.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Catherine O'Malley, RRT - Respiratory Therapy
Current as ofMay 4, 2017
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2017 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.