Mucous Plug in a Trach Tube

Outline of a body showing the airway, trach tube, and mucous plug in tube

You have a tracheostomy (trach) tube that allows you to breathe. Mucus from your airway can collect inside the trach tube and block it. The buildup of thick mucus is called a mucous plug. It’s important that you take steps to prevent a mucous plug from blocking your trach tube. Below are directions for helping keep your trach tube free of mucous buildup so that you can breathe without difficulty.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home:

  • Unless your healthcare provider has put you on a fluid-restricted diet, make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids. This means 6 to 8 glasses a day.

  • Keep your airway clear by coughing periodically throughout the day.

  • Suction your trach tube as advised to by your provider. Do this regularly, as often as your provider suggests.

  • Moisten the air that you breathe as directed by your provider. You can use a humidifier, particularly in the room you sleep in at night. This is especially important when it's hot and dry out, or when it's cold and you have the heat on.

  • Carry an extra trach tube with you in case one tube gets blocked.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Shortness of breath, trouble breathing, or wheezing that doesn't get better with suctioning or breathing treatments

  • Blocked trach tube that you can't clear with suctioning

  • Trach tube falls out and you can't put one back in

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

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

  • Severe, prolonged coughing spells

  • Red, painful, or bleeding stoma

  • Swelling of the skin around the stoma

  • Coughing up yellow, smelly, bloody, or thick mucus

  • Sweaty, clammy skin

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