Incentive spirometry or bubbles: Encouraging deep breathing to clear the lungs

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Learn how your child can exercise their lungs to reduce the risk of breathing problems.

Key points

  • An incentive spirometer is a device that helps your child exercise their lungs.
  • Deep breaths with an incentive spirometer reduce the risk of breathing problems such as pneumonia after surgery or, in patients with sickle cell disease, acute chest syndrome.
  • If your child can use an incentive spirometer, they should take 10 deep breaths every hour.
  • Your child may need to avoid using an incentive spirometer if they are in too much pain or need more oxygen after using the device. A physiotherapist may need to assess your child before using an incentive spirometer if they have a history of asthma or they are wheezing.
  • If your child is under age five or cannot use an incentive spirometer for another reason, they should blow bubbles for two to three minutes every hour.
Last updated: June 25th 2014