An upper respiratory infection can affect any of the breathing mechanisms of your head and chest, including the nose, throat and sinuses. In addition to difficulty breathing, you may experience a sore throat, nasal congestion, cough, watery eyes, headache and ear stuffiness as a result of this infection. Because your throat and/or airways are not operating at their full capacity, you may also experience breathing difficulty. Breathing exercises can help you compensate for reduced breathing capacity, making you comfortable until you have made a full recovery 2.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Catch Your Breath
When you have an upper respiratory infection, you may find it difficult to “catch” your breath. This is because your congestion may not allow you to breathe at normal capacity. You can correct this by adopting a comfortable position that facilitates airflow. Sit straight up, with your back against a chair, and roll your shoulders forward, then bring your head forward and slightly downward. Place your forearms on your thighs with your palms pointed upward, but do not place weight on your hands. Breathe gently through your nose and mouth. Refrain from taking deep breaths, as this may cause you to cough. Instead, inhale slightly longer than normal and exhale in the same manner.
- When you have an upper respiratory infection, you may find it difficult to “catch” your breath.
Breathing Exercises to Increase Oxygen Rate
This exercise can be both relaxing and pain-relieving, according to the American Medical Students Association. While seated, place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Breathe in, observing the rise in the hand on your abdomen. Breathe out, observing the rise in the hand on your chest. When this occurs, you are able to breathe more deeply in your lungs. Exhale through your mouth and then inhale -- if possible -- through your nose for a count of seven seconds. Exhale via your mouth, then tighten your abdominal muscles. This helps to squeeze remaining air from your diaphragm, helping you to breathe more fully. Repeat this exercise four additional times.
- This exercise can be both relaxing and pain-relieving, according to the American Medical Students Association.
- Breathe in, observing the rise in the hand on your abdomen.
When you have an upper respiratory infection, frequent coughing can be an inconvenient and often painful occurrence. If you have mucus in your lungs, this can make coughing difficult. The controlled coughing exercise helps you to loosen mucus in your lungs, reducing the frequency and duration of coughing. While seated, lean your head slightly forward and keep both feet on the ground. Breathe in deeply, picturing your airflow reaching all the way to your diaphragm. Hold this breath in for three seconds. Keep your mouth open and cough out two times. Your diaphragm should move upward and any mucus or phlegm should move up with the first cough and through the throat with the second. Remove and dispose of any mucus with a tissue.
- When you have an upper respiratory infection, frequent coughing can be an inconvenient and often painful occurrence.
- Keep your mouth open and cough out two times.
Breathing Exercises to Increase Oxygen Rate
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Breathing Exercises for Fluid in Lungs
The Effect of Breathing Exercises on Pleural Effusion
How to Use Saline in a Nebulizer
- Dartmouth College Health Service: Care for Upper Respiratory Infections
- Health.com: Breathing Techniques Can Help You Exercise
- Holloway EA, West RJ. Integrated breathing and relaxation training (the Papworth method) for adults with asthma in primary care: a randomized controlled trial. Thorax. 2007;62(12):1039-42. doi:10.1136/thx.2006.076430
- Holland AE, Hill CJ, Jones AY, Mcdonald CF. Breathing exercises for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;10:CD008250. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008250.pub2
- Yamaguti WP, Claudino RC, Neto AP, et al. Diaphragmatic breathing training program improves abdominal motion during natural breathing in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2012;93(4):571-7. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2011.11.026
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.