Airway Clearance Techniques (ACTs)

There are different ways to clear your airways. Most are easy to do. Infants and toddlers will need help from a parent or caregiver. Older kids and adults can choose airway clearance techniques (ACTs) that they can do on their own.

2 min read
  • All airway clearance techniques (ACTs) involve coughing or huffing.
  • Many of them use percussion (clapping) or vibration to loosen mucus from airway walls.

See how different airway clearance techniques work to help you clear the thick, sticky mucus from your lungs.


ACTs are often used with other treatments, including inhaled bronchodilators, medications that help thin and move the mucus, and antibiotics. Bronchodilators should be inhaled before you start ACTs. This medication helps to widen your airways (bronchi) by relaxing the muscles lining your airway walls. Mucus thinners (such as mucolytics) help thin and then move the mucus out of the airways so it can be coughed out. These medications can be taken through a nebulizer during ACTs. Inhaled antibiotics should be taken after ACTs are finished and the lungs are as clear of mucus as possible. This will allow the medication to reach deeply into the smaller airways to attack bacteria.

Choose What's Best for You

Your respiratory therapist or another member of your CF care team can show you how to perform many different ACTs and recommend specific ACTs for you to try. However, the best ACT is the one that you are most likely to perform as part of your daily treatment plan.

To learn more about how you can help your infant or child manage their lung health, watch parents of children with CF and a respiratory therapist talk about the different techniques they use for airway clearance. 

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