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Caring for Cystic Fibrosis

Here are a couple of techniques to help with caring for your symptoms at home:

Huff cough

Coughing is your body's way of removing mucus from the lungs. However, coughing is not always enough to clear the mucus. The “huff cough” is a gentle way of coughing, which speeds airflow. When starting this therapy, it’s best to learn how to do it correctly from a respiratory therapist.

These instructions can help you get started at home:

  • Begin in a seated position with your chin tilted slightly upward.
  • Use your diaphragm (stomach muscle) to breathe in slowly.
  • Hold your breath for two to three seconds.
  • Force the breath out your mouth in one quick burst of air.
  • Make sure the back of your throat is kept open.


  • Take a normal breath to clear the larger breathing tubes.
  • Take a longer breath to clear out the smaller breathing tubes.
  • For the best results, try breathing both ways.
  • Perform two or three huff breaths, and never to the point of exhaustion.
  • Cough when you feel the mucus collected in your breathing tubes.
  • Rest for five to 10 breaths.
  • Repeat the huffs until you feel you have cleared mucus or you become tired.
  • Try to do 3 to 5 cycles of huffing and resting.

Autogenic drainage

Autogenic drainage (AD) uses controlled breathing to move large amounts of thick mucus. AD has certain rewards over other methods of airway clearance in that the patient can use it alone in a seated position without the aid of machines or tools.

To prepare for AD, relax, sit comfortably, and perform slow, controlled, deep breathing. There are three lung levels of AD. They are:

1)     "Unsticking" of mucus by low lung level breathing. First, exhale completely; inhale a small- to normal-sized breath. Hold the breath for one to three seconds, then exhale completely again. This step is repeated for one to three minutes. Repeat until crackles are heard when breathing out.

2)     "Collecting" the mucus in larger or mid-sized airways. Take in a slightly larger breath. Hold for one to three seconds, and then exhale, but not as low as in level one. Repeat this step for one to three minutes. Listen for crackles at the end of exhaling. Continue for two to three more breaths.

3)     "Evacuating" the mucus in the central airways is achieved by breathing at normal to high volumes. Take in a slow deep breath. Hold the breath for one to three seconds. Exhale forcefully with open glottis. This moves the mucus into your mouth. Then spit it out into a container or tissue.

Each level requires about two to three minutes. The full cycle takes six to nine minutes. When mucus is felt in the larger, central airways, do two to three effective huff coughs. Avoid coughing during the unsticking and collecting steps of autogenic drainage. Do two to three huff coughs if you must cough.

Other Options

Oxygen Therapy
If the level of oxygen in your blood is too low, you may need oxygen therapy. Oxygen is usually given through nasal prongs (cannula) or a mask.

Lung Transplantation
Surgery to replace one or both of your lungs with healthy lungs from a human donor may help you.  

Managing digestive problems
Nutritional therapy can improve your growth, development, strength and exercise tolerance. It may also make you strong enough to resist some lung infections. Nutritional therapy includes a well-balanced, high-calorie, low-fat, high-protein diet.

Enemas and mucus-thinning medications to treat intestinal blockages, as well as medicines that reduce stomach acid can also ease digestive problems.





5th Floor Ambulatory Care Clinic
2211 Lomas Blvd NE
Albuquerque, NM 87106

Hours: Monday-Friday
8 a.m.-5 p.m.

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