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Pursed-Lip Breathing

Pursed-lip breathing can help you get more oxygen into your lungs when you are short of breath. When you start to feel short of breath, use pursed-lip breathing to control your breathing. Breathing in through the nose and out through pursed or closed lips makes breathing easier. You can practice breathing this way anytime, anywhere. For example, if you are watching TV, practice during the commercials. Try to practice several times a day. Over time, pursed-lip breathing will feel natural.

Home care

Practice these steps every day so that you'll know how to do pursed-lip breathing when you have shortness of breath.

  1. Sit in a comfortable chair.

  2. Relax the muscles in your neck and shoulders.

  3. Breathe in slowly through your nose.

  4. Hold your lips together as if you are trying to whistle or blow out a candle.

  5. Breathe out slowly and gently through your pursed lips. Your exhale should be twice as long as your inhale. 

  6. Repeat the above steps as needed.

Use pursed-lip breathing to prevent shortness of breath when you do things such as exercising, climbing stairs, or bending or lifting. Breathe out during the hard part of any activity, such as when you bend, lift, or reach. Always breathe out for longer than you breathe in. This lets your lungs to empty as much as possible. Never hold your breath when doing pursed-lip breathing.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment, or as advised by your healthcare provider..

When to call the healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing. Call 911for trouble breathing and as directed by your healthcare provider.

  • Increased mucus, or yellow, green, or bloody mucus

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Tightness in your chest that does not go away with rest or medicine

  • An irregular heartbeat

  • Swollen ankles

Online Medical Reviewer: Alan J Blaivas DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: Wanda Taylor RN PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2018
© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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