Active cycle breathing technique ACBT (1057)

Key points below

What is active cycle breathing?   

Active Cycle Breathing

It can be done as many times as needed to clear the lungs.

 What is belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing)?

How to belly breathe 

1. Sit comfortably with your shoulders relaxed.

2. Try to stay relaxed. You should not feel your shoulders or chest move if you are doing this the right way.

3. To feel your diaphragm move as you breathe, put one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly just below your rib cage.  It will also help you keep your upper chest still.

4. Take in a slow, gentle breath, through your nose.   Your belly should move out against your hand as you breathe in (inhale). Your chest should be as still as possible. 

5. Breathe out (exhale) through your mouth.  As the air comes out your belly will move in.  Shape your mouth like an “O” as you exhale.

6. Breathe slowly and focus on your breathing. Tell yourself to relax.

7. Hold your breath for 2 to 3 seconds at the peak of your breath.  This will help to expand all of the areas of your lungs.

Breathing (continued)

What is a huff cough?

How to huff cough 

Control your cough – don’t let it control you!

1. Tilt your chin up a bit to help keep your throat open.  Keep your mouth shaped like an “O”.

2. Slowly breathe in a comfortably big breath. Hold your breath for 2 to 3 seconds. This helps to get air behind the mucus so that it can be coughed out.

3. Blow out evenly.  Blow a little longer than you normally do.  Blow until just before you feel the need to cough.  

4. If you hear a wheeze, you are huffing too hard or too long.  The huff cough should sound very different from your normal barking, explosive cough.

5. Repeat 1 to 2 more times.  Then follow with one strong cough to clear mucus from the larger airways.  

6. At the end of the first huff, take in a quick, smaller breath of air. Repeat the huff cough again.

7. If the mucus is in your throat area, use a normal cough to clear it from your airways. If the mucus is not in your throat, try not to do a normal cough. It may help to use relaxed belly breathing or take a sip of water to keep from coughing.


Call your child’s doctor, nurse, or clinic if you have any questions or concerns or if your child has special health care needs that were not covered by this information.