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5 September 2017
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Is bronchial mucus a problem?

Sticky mucus secretions can often occur in conditions such as COPD, Bronchiectasis, Cystic Fibrosis, Emphysema or Asthma. 

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Our Lungs

Our lungs start at the back of the throat with the windpipe which divides into two airways, one for each lung. In each lung, the airways branch like a tree, getting smaller and smaller until eventually, they form small air sacs called alveoli. Its in the very smallest of these where the oxygen passes into the bloodstream and at the same time waste gases are discarded. The lining of our airways continually produce mucus, which keeps the airways moist, trapping dust and debris that may enter our lungs. Cilia or tiny hairs line our airways and continually move this mucus up to our throat so it can be cleared. 

However for some of you this mucus becomes stickier making it difficult to clear and this can lead to infection making your airways swell and produce even more mucus. This in turn results in further infection which can eventually lead to lung damage. One possible treatment of these symptoms along with mucolytics is airways clearance techniques and it is vital that these are recommended and monitored by a physiotherapist as everyone is an individual.

Are mucus clearance devices the solution?

Increasingly many of you have been recommended by your health professional to try Oscillating Positive Expiratory Pressure devices such as the Flutter the Shaker or the Pari O-PEP. These work by vibrating your airways and applying a “back pressure” during a breath out. This helps to open up your airways by getting air behind the secretions and moving them further up.

Flutter Opep

When you breathe out through these devices, pressure builds up in your lungs, helping to keep the airways open wide and allowing air to get behind the sputum, moving it upwards. The vibrations transmitted through the chest wall from the device help to loosen any sputum stuck to the sides of the airways. 

Your health professional should show you how to use these devices and each unit comes with full instructions, but as a quick guide

Treatment can be carried out in sitting or any postural drainage position (where possible). Relaxing your stomach muscles take a few normal breaths before starting. Close your lips around the mouthpiece and make sure to make a  good seal. Start by taking a slightly bigger than normal breath in through your nose, then breathe out through the device. You may feel vibrations on your chest wall. Repeat this eight to ten times. You should then put the device down and cough to clear any sputum. Then relax before starting again. Aim to continue for about 15 minutes or until you have cleared all your sputum.

If you're still unsure...

Customer feedback with all these devices is always very positive especially when recommended by your heath professional and with the new Shakers and the Pari O-PEP even the cost is less prohibitive. If you have any questions at all please call us on 01942 701210 and you can explore further through these useful links.

Photo credits: Samuel Zeller

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