Pursed-Lip Breathing

Pursed-lip breathing can help you get more oxygen into your lungs when you're 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 instance, if you're 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're 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.

Man sitting in chair inhaling through nose.Man sitting in chair exhaling through mouth.

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.

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

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

  • Tightness in your chest that doesn't go away with rest or medicine

  • An irregular heartbeat

  • Swollen ankles

Call 911

Call 911 right away if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Can't talk

  • An irregular heartbeat that's making you more short of breath or lightheaded, confused, or dizzy

  • Other symptoms as directed by your healthcare provider

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