Helpful breathing techniques everyone should know

Do you suffer from shortness of breath, a cough or a tight chest? These respiratory symptoms are common with lung infections. People with chronic respiratory disease often have these symptoms.

We go through some easy breathing techniques that can help relieve common respiratory symptoms – in adults and children alike.

Pursed lip breathing

Pursed lip breathing is where you breathe out against resistance. It is a technique that helps with:

  • Shortness of breath and respiratory distress
  • Mobilising deep-seated mucus
  • Reduce hyperinflation of the lungs*

» How to do the breathing technique: Instructions for pursed lip breathing

Mindful shallow breathing

One way to supress the urge to cough or to get a grip on a coughing attack is “shallow breathing”. Fast and shallow breathing changes the airflow into the airways, which can relieve the irritation.

If you feel the urge to cough while you are using the nebuliser, stop the inhalation and breathe fast and shallow in and out a few times before resuming the nebuliser therapy.

NB: Shallow breathing is not normally recommended. It should only be used briefly as a targeted and conscious breathing technique.

» How to use the “shallow breathing” technique: Instructions on conscious shallow breathing


Huffing is a breathing technique that can be used to transport away the mucus from the upper bronchial and tracheal region (windpipe). This stops you coughing. For coughing is exhausting and can in certain circumstances, for example if you have a lung infection, be painful.

If secretions are broken down by nebuliser therapy and you can feel them in the upper bronchial areas or your trachea, briefly stop the inhalation and huff to remove the mucus.

» Instructions on huffing are here

Breathing through your nose

Always breathe through your nose – even if you feel short of breath. Breathing through your nose has many benefits and is healthier for your lungs. Why? All the advantages of breathing through your nose at a glance.

If you regularly have difficulty breathing through your nose, you should see a doctor.

Breathing through your fist

Like pursed lip breathing, breathing through your fist is breathing against resistance and can be used to supress the urge to cough. If the urge to cough is too great, cough into your fist. This means that the mucosal membranes of the bronchial tubes do not collide against each other as violently when you cough.

If you feel the urge to cough during your nebuliser therapy, breathe in through the nebuliser and then out through your fist, until the irritation has passed.

» Breathing through your fist: Instructions

Breathing techniques help with daily life; they are not a therapy option

Remember: Breathing techniques are used to support you in your daily life, but are not a substitute for therapies you may need. They can relieve the breathing difficulties, but cannot heal them or address their cause.

If you have breathing difficulties, see your doctor to find out why and discuss the need for treatment.

* The lungs can become hyperventilated if the mucosal membranes of the bronchial tubes become inflamed – for example because of tiny particles of tar from cigarettes, which are deposited in the bronchial tubes, where they cause damage. This can cause irreparable harm to the alveoli. They can then no longer completely move the inhaled air back out of the bronchial tubes, where the air then remains.

More tips about lung health and good breathing

Tips especially for parents and children

Note: The information in this blog post is not a treatment recommendation. The needs of patients vary greatly from person to person. The treatment approaches presented should be viewed only as examples. PARI recommends that patients always consult with their physician or physiotherapist first.

An article written by the PARI BLOG editorial team.

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