Normal breathing

Normally we are barely aware of our breathing, it happens without the need for conscious thought. We are seldom aware of sputum or saliva.

Our natural breathing pattern is to:

  • Inhale and exhale smoothly and gently through the nose, breathing out for twice as long as we breathe in.
  • Use the main muscle of breathing – the diaphragm.
  • Have a relaxed pause at the end of the out breath.
  • A healthy adult should breathe around 10 to 14 breaths per minute and can use up to 6 litres of air per minute. This depends in part on size and fitness.

If we need more oxygen:

  • When we exercise our muscles and organs demand more oxygen and produce more carbon dioxide so we breathe faster.
  • We breathe through the mouth to get air in and out of the lungs more quickly.
  • Breathing should settle back to its normal rate after the exercise demand stops.

For some patients /clients with long term lung conditions feeling short of breath, wheezy and coughing up sputum is a feature of everyday life.

An increase in breathlessness, cough, wheeze or chest tightness, and more sputum or mucus is a sign that the patient is becoming more unwell and perhaps developing an exacerbation or flare up or their lung disease. This can develop slowly over a few days or more quickly over a few hours.