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Deep breathing and coughing help keep your lungs clear. If you’ve had surgery or not, it will help you get better faster. It may also prevent a lung infection. If you have lung problems, it will help you breathe better. Follow the steps below.

Woman holding pillow against her incision

Woman breathing in slowly through nose

Woman coughing

Step 1

  • Sit on the edge of a bed or a chair. Or lie on your back with your knees slightly bent.

  • Lean forward slightly. Hold a pillow firmly against your incision with both hands.

  • Breathe out normally.

Step 2

  • Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose.

  • Then breathe out fully through your mouth. Repeat.

  • Take a third deep breath. Fill your lungs as much as you can.

Step 3

  • Cough 2 or 3 times in a row.

  • Try to push all of the air out of your lungs as you cough.

  • Then relax and breathe normally.

  • Repeat as directed.

Holding a pillow against your incision will help to reduce the amount of discomfort that may happen with movement and deep breathing. Simply clearing your throat does not help to remove the mucus that may have settled deeper in your airway. Coughing multiple times in a row helps to remove the mucus more effectively and clear your lungs. It is important to do these coughing exercises as much as possible after surgery unless your healthcare team tells you not to. You may also be given other deep breathing exercises to do. These exercises should be done even after you return home from the hospital as you continue to recover. 


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