What do I think is the best method of clearing airways? The simple answer is… whichever one you are willing and able to do on a regular basis. This activity is often prescribed to be done once or twice a day and even more frequently during respiratory infections and flare-ups. Hopefully, you will be able to meet with a therapist to review airway clearance practices. I say hopefully, because even in New York City, I had difficulty finding a therapist with this type of expertise. When I asked my first pulmonologist to refer me to a therapist specializing in airway clearance, he said that he did not know of anyone! So instead, I had a ten-minute airway clearance session with his nurse who asked me to choose between an Acapella® and an Aerobika®.
I knew nothing about the devices and blindly chose the Aerobika. Four months later when I attended a New York City support group, I found out that although most use the Aerobika some preferred the Acapella so I ordered one to test which one works the best for me. I experimented and, most times, I prefer the Aerobika but occasionally I do like to switch things up and use the Acapella. There are some contraindications for using these devices, so it is important that you get your health professional’s approval and not just order one online.
I was not comfortable with the limited patient education I received in my doctor’s office, so I searched online for other resources. I found the Pulmonary Wellness & Rehabilitation Center in New York City, and met with a therapist there to review my airway clearance. The center was not on my health plan, but I felt it was important enough to pay for an experienced therapist to teach me the best ways to clear my airways, something I came to see as not only a science but also an art. A year later I switched to a new pulmonologist who referred me to an in-house hospital therapist to review my AC technique and make some minor recommendations. It was reassuring to know that, even with the therapist percussing me like a bongo drum, I did not expectorate more than my usual amount. My pulmonologist later said that, based on what she knew about me, I probably did not have a lot of mucus and that the techniques I was using were sufficient and effective.
As you clock in airway clearance hours, try new approaches and get input from your therapist, you will learn what clearance tools in your bronchiectasis toolbox work best for you and when to use them. There is an expression, “A new broom sweeps the floor, but an old broom knows the corners.” It is my hope that once you get adequate professional input and try different practices, you will have the experience to know how to “sweep your corners” and have clearer lungs.
#bronchiectasis #airwayclearance #nebulizing #Aerobika
Linda Cooper Esposito, MPH is a health educator with bronchiectasis. She developed the BE CLEAR Method to Living with Bronchiectasis and writes with compassion and humor about this chronic lung disease.