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Chest Physiotherapy (Chest PT)

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What is chest physiotherapy?

The purpose of chest PT is to move fluid or mucus in the lungs. It is done by clapping on the chest and by positioning your child to help move mucus to the larger airways where it can be coughed and/or suctioned out.

How often should I do chest PT?

Chest PT is usually done every eight to 12 hours, depending on your child's needs. It can be done more often if needed.

When should I do chest PT?

A good time to do Chest PT is in the morning before your child has eaten breakfast. This will remove the secretions that have built up during the night and clear his lungs so he can begin his day.

Another good time is right before your child goes to bed. This prepares your child for a restful night.

Getting ready to do chest PT for your child

Prepare yourself by relaxing your shoulders, arms and wrists. Cup your hands, holding your thumb and fingers together. Proper hand position is very important; it will create an air cushion between your hand and your child's chest. If you hold your hands flat, chest PT will not be as effective and you may hurt your child

Chest PT is done by crisply, but gently, clapping your child's chest. It should make a "clopping" sound. For small infants, a tool called a percussion hammer may be used.

How to position your child for chest PT

Ask your child’s nurse about positioning your child. If possible, your child should be positioned with his head lowered. In this position, the force of gravity helps to draw the secretions to the larger, upper airways where it can be coughed or suctioned out. Placing your child over your lap with his head lowered (if your child is small) or placing him in bed with the head of the bed lowered may be helpful.

A light blanket or baby blanket may be used to provide some cushioning. If chest PT is done properly, it will not hurt your child. In fact, many children fall asleep during the treatment.

Where should I do chest PT?

There are 6 basic areas for Chest PT: right front, right back and right side and left front, left back and left side. The lungs are located underneath the ribs. Be careful not to do Chest PT below the ribs, as this could damage your child's kidneys, liver or spleen. Your hand should always clap at least one inch above the ribs. Also, try not to "clap" on your child's collarbone, shoulder blades, backbone or sternum (the bone that runs down the front of the chest).

How long should I do chest PT?

Whenever you are doing chest PT, always watch your child closely for signs of trouble breathing such as:

  • Coughing
  • Breathing "hard"
  • Bluish color around the lips
  • Increased breathing rate

If your child begins coughing, sit him/her up until the coughing stops. If he is not having any trouble breathing, reposition your child and finish clapping.

Good chest PT may loosen a lot of secretions or a "plug," which may cause your child to have trouble breathing. If this happens, suction your child or let him cough into a tissue then let him take a little break. Watch your child closely during the rest of the chest PT. Suction or have him cough again, if necessary. Call your child’s doctor if he continues to have trouble breathing.


Disclaimer:This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 05/2014

(757) 668-7000