Helping children clear their lungs

Recent Posts


Children with lung diseases may have extra mucus in their lungs. This can block the small airways and make it hard to breathe.   

Have your doctor or respiratory therapist show you how to use these steps to clear your child's lungs.  

• Clear your child's lungs at least once a day or more often if your doctor says so.

• Wait at least 1 hour after your child eats before beginning treatment.

• Have tissues ready for when your child coughs up mucus.

• Remove rings, watches, and other jewelry from your hands. 

Step 1: Positioning. Your child can use different body positions to help drain mucus out of the lungs

• Have your child sit or lie so that the part of the lung that is to be drained is higher than the rest of the lung. Your doctor or respiratory therapist will tell you which positions to use.

• Place your child on a padded surface. You can use a pillow or blanket for support.

• For an infant, hold the child on your lap.

• Have your child bend at the knees and waist. This will make coughing easier.

Step 2: Chest clapping. Tapping on your child's chest wall using this method will help loosen mucus  

• Put a light blanket or towel over the area where you will do the chest clapping. Do not clap directly on bare skin.

• Form a cup with your hand by holding your fingers together and bending them at the knuckles. Press your thumb against your index finger and bend your wrist slightly.

• Clap your hand firmly on the part of the chest or back you are working on. Alternate between hands, using a fast regular rhythm. Clapping should not hurt.

• Clap over your child's rib cage but not on stomach area, breastbone, or spine. Your child should breathe normally during the clapping.

• The amount of time you clap will vary depending on your child's size and condition.

Step 3: Vibrating. Vibrating your child's chest after clapping helps move the mucus to the larger airways so that it is easier to cough it up 

• Flatten your hand and place it firmly on your child's chest or back where you have been doing the chest clapping.

• Stiffen the muscles in your arm and shoulder and make a fine shaking movement like shivering.

• Have your child take a regular breath. Vibrate using gentle pressure while your child exhales.

• Work from the outside edge of the area to the center with each vibration.

Step 4: Huff coughing A huff cough forces air out of the lungs and helps make it easier to spit up loosened mucus

Have your child cough after clapping and vibrating in each position.

• Do these steps together with your child.
– Take a deep breath.
– Keep your mouth open.
– Tighten the muscles in your belly.
– Force the air out of your lungs in three short breaths. It should sound like ha, ah, ha or huff, huff, huff.
– Breathe deeply to stop coughing.
– Your child may need to repeat these steps 2 or 3 times before he or she coughs.
– Tell your doctor or respiratory therapist if you see blood in the mucus. 

Make it easier. Make lung clearing easier for your child

• Help your child relax and be as comfortable as possible during the treatment.

• Explain to your child as simply as you can how lung clearing will help him or her feel better.

• Make sure your child knows that he or she is not being punished.

• Do things if you can to let your child have a say in the treatment, such as choosing the position to start with.

• Plan a fun activity to do during the treatment, such as watch a video or listen to music.

Things to watch for after lung clearing

• Your child may cough more for an hour or two after doing these steps. This shows that the treatment is working.

• Your child may throw up after swallowing a lot of mucus. When your child is old enough, teach him or her to spit mucus into a tissue instead of swallowing it.

• Call the doctor if your child does not stop throwing up.