Deep Breathing

Deep breathing helps keep your lungs clear. If you’ve had surgery, this will help you get better faster. Deep breathing also helps you breathe easier and may prevent a lung infection or other complications.

Home care

Woman sitting and holding pillow to chest.

Follow these steps to do deep breathing:

  • Sit on the edge of a bed or a chair. You can also lie on your back with your knees slightly bent.

  • If you've had surgery on or near your chest or belly, hold a pillow or rolled-up towel firmly against your cut (incision) with both hands. Hug the pillow.

  • Breathe out normally.

  • Breathe in deeply through your nose. Feel your stomach push out as you breathe in.

  • Hold your breath for 2 to 5 seconds, if possible.

  • Pucker your lips as you would to blow out a candle.

  • With your lips puckered, breathe out slowly through your mouth. You should feel your chest go down as you breathe out.

  • Rest for a few seconds, breathing normally.

  • Relax your neck and shoulder muscles.

  • Repeat the above steps as many times as directed.


Make a follow-up appointment, or as directed by your healthcare provider.

When to get medical care

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as advised by your provider

  • Signs of infection, if you've had surgery. These include redness, swelling, or warmth at your incision site, or pus or fluid draining from the site.

  • Brownish or bloody sputum (mucus)

  • Minor bleeding from surgical site

  • New cough

  • Upset stomach (nausea) or vomiting

  • Increasing pain

  • Dizziness or weakness

  • Fast or irregular heartbeat

Call 911

Shortness of breath may be a sign of a serious health problem. Call 911right away if you have shortness of breath that gets worse or have trouble breathing, especially with any of the symptoms below:

  • Confusion or trouble staying awake

  • Loss of consciousness or fainting

  • Chest pain or tightness

  • Trouble breathing or wheezing

  • Bluish skin or lips

  • Coughing up blood

  • Severe pain

  • Severe bleeding or new opening at surgical site

© 2000-2023 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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