How to perform oral suctioning

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Suctioning is done to remove excess secretions that a child cannot clear on their own. Learn how to perform oral suctioning to clear secretions.

Key points

  • Oral suctioning is performed to remove mucus or saliva from the mouth when a child cannot cough or swallow.
  • Make sure you know how to use the suction machine and equipment before you begin oral suctioning on your child.
  • Talk to your child's health-care provider if you are unsure about any of the following steps.

Oral suctioning is done to clear secretions (mucus) from the mouth if a child is unable to clear it on their own through coughing or blowing their nose. A hard-plastic tip with a handle called a Yankauer is usually used to suction secretions in the mouth.

  1. Gather your equipment and supplies.
  2. If your child uses an oximeter, make sure it is on and providing an accurate reading.
  3. An oxygen saturation monitor on a finger.

    Have oxygen available, if prescribed by your child’s health-care team.

  4. Settings on a portable suction machine

    Make sure the suction machine is at the correct setting.

  5. Caregiver washing their hands

    Wash your hands well.

  6. A sterile water bottle and a labelled cup of sterile water for suctioning

    Fill a clean container with sterile water or saline.

  7. Make sure your child is in a comfortable position (lying or sitting).
  8. Attach the suction tubing to a clean catheter or Yankauer. Keep the catheter or Yankauer in clean casing until just before use.
  9. Insert the catheter or Yankauer into the mouth to remove any mucus your child has coughed up. If there is a suction control port, place your thumb over the port and slowly remove the Yankauer or the catheter. Only hold down the suction control port for up to 10 seconds at a time. Make sure to keep the Yankauer or catheter away from the inside of the cheek or tongue.
  10. Rinse the Yankauer by dipping the adaptor into sterile water or saline and suctioning. Discard the catheter. Replace cover on Yankauer.
  11. Assess and tend to your child’s respiratory status and oxygen needs.
  12. Pressing the on and off switch on a suction machine

    Turn off the suction unit.

  13. Empty and clean the suction drainage bottles and containers, if needed.
  14. Caregiver washing their hands

    Wash hands well.

  15. Prepare the suction equipment and supplies for the next use.
Suction catheter size:     
Depth of suction catheter insertion for suctioning:   
Suction machine pressure setting (mmHg):     
Last updated: February 20th 2020