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What Are Chest Percussions? And How to Do Them At Home

What Are Chest Percussions? And How to Do Them At Home

Guest Post By Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN

If your child is sick with pneumonia, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), or other condition that causes extra mucus in the lungs, they may need chest percussions. In addition, children with medical conditions such as cystic fibrosis that can lead to excess mucus also often need chest percussions.

What Are Chest Percussions? And How to Do Them At Home

Per Children’s Minnesota, chest percussions are a rhythmic tapping of the chest wall. A form of chest physiotherapy, they help to loosen up mucus so it can be coughed out.

What Are Chest Percussions

What Are Chest Percussions and Their Benefit

To work most effectively, chest percussions are part of a two-step chest physiotherapy process. First, the child is positioned optimally for bronchial drainage. Then their back is percussed either with hands or a special cup device if the child is younger or small.

The main reason for chest percussions is to help a child breathe. When conditions cause too much mucus, it can block the proper airflow in the lungs, per Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Chest physiotherapy, which includes chest percussions, can help a child get this mucus out by loosening up the secretions.

Check out Dr. Goudy's Video About Chest Percussions Here:

@drnozebest #duet with @meghanlambert3 #rsvawareness RSV cause there’s lots of mucus to build up in the lungs and therefore chest percussion and then you need hospital grade suction like the nozebot to clear out the nose of your baby can breathe, eat and then sleep. #rsv #rsvawareness #mucus #mucusremoval #breathing #booger #nozebot #ent #fyp ♬ original sound - Meghan

Doing Chest Percussions at Home

If your child has recently been hospitalized because of a respiratory illness or they have a chronic condition that causes extra mucus production, you may be trained on how to do chest percussions at home. This training is usually provided by a medical professional such as a respiratory therapist.

 The first step to doing chest percussions at home is preparing your child. Preparation is done through several steps, including:

  • Explaining to your child what you are going to do
  • Demonstrating chest percussions on a doll or similar toy
  • Using language your child understands instead of harder to understand medical terms
  • Reassuring your child and giving them lots of encouragement

How to Do Chest Percussions at home

For chest percussions to be most effective, you will likely be taught how to position your child to promote bronchial drainage. Promoting bronchial drainage means using gravity to help mucus move out.

Position the child as you’ve been taught, on a comfortable surface such as a bed or other padded surface, and ensure they have on at least a thin t-shirt (it is essential not to percuss on bare skin).

Once the child has been prepped for the procedure and positioned appropriately, the next steps for actually performing chest percussions, per Nationwide Children’s Hospital, include:

  • Percussing each area how you were taught by a medical professional and for the length of time you were instructed to percuss in each area
  • Only percussing over the ribs
  • For young and small kids, using what is called a CPT cup—which is a special cup for percussions
  • For older kids, using a cupped hand is usually fine 

If you’re looking for a visual of chest percussions, Dr. Steven Goudy provides a great visual in this TikTok.

Other Ways to Provide Relief

If your little one's congestion and mucus build-up are due to a respiratory illness, there are other steps you can take to help thin out nasal mucus secretions to provide more relief. These include using a cool mist humidifier, spending time in a steamy bathroom with a shower running, offering appropriate fluids, and of course, using the NozeBot to provide efficient, hospital-grade suction relief.

And, if your child is sick, extra snuggles and movies are always great ways to provide comfort.

However, if you have an ill child at home and the chest physiotherapy you provide does not seem to be helping your child breathe better, it is vital to seek medical care from a healthcare professional. Difficulty breathing is a medical emergency and requires help from a trained medical professional.

how to  Do Chest Percussions at Home

Looking for more doctor-approved tips? Check out these:

Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN, is a mother of four and a registered nurse with a background in pediatrics. When she's not working, you can find her cooking up tasty family dinners or keeping up with her kids on a hiking trail in her home state of Colorado.

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