An incentive spirometer is a hand-held device that helps people to take slow, deep
breaths. It's like exercise equipment for the lungs
to keep them strong and working well.
Why Do People Need an Incentive Spirometer?
Breathing deeply helps get enough air into the lungs so they inflate as
much as possible. Breathing slowly helps inflate all areas of the lungs,
not just part of them.
When kids don't breathe deeply enough, fluid and germs can build up in the lungs.
Kids might get infections like pneumonia.
Using an incentive spirometer helps kids who are healing from surgery. Because
kids are resting more than usual, they don't breathe in as deeply as they normally
do. After chest surgery or spine surgery, some kids find it hurts to breathe in. They
may take shallow breaths that don't fill their lungs with enough air.
An incentive spirometer is made of hollow, clear plastic. It has a tube with a
There are two indicators that show:
1. How deeply your child breathes in. A grid with numbers
on the main chamber measures how much air your child is breathing in. A piston moves
up the grid as your child breathes in. (The piston is the large blue disc in the main
chamber, pictured above.) The deeper your child breathes, the higher it goes.
The care team moves a slider on the grid to set a goal for how deeply your child
should breathe. At first, it can be hard for kids to reach the goal. That's normal.
Incentive spirometry is like any workout: The more kids do it, the easier it is to
reach their goal.
2. How slowly your child breathes in. On the side of
the main chamber, there are lines showing a range. As your child inhales, a disc (indicator)
goes up and down. Your child is breathing at the right speed when the indicator stays
in the target range.
How Often Do People Do Incentive Spirometry?
How often your child needs to use the spirometer depends on the reason for doing
Incentive Spirometry After Surgery
Before the surgery, your child will probably practice using the spirometer at home.
This helps your child get used to the spirometer and learn what it feels like to do
it right. After surgery, kids need to use the spirometer about 10 times each hour
Incentive Spirometry for a Lung Illness
Kids with cystic fibrosis might need to use the spirometer when they do other types
of breathing treatments. Kids with sickle cell disease might use it at home or if
they're in the hospital with lung problems or pain.
Your care team will let you know the schedule that's best for your child.
How Can I Help My Child?
Using the spirometer can be a challenge for kids and teens. You can:
Sit with your child while he or she practices. Offer encouragement and praise
when your child is able to meet both goal and target ranges.
Set a timer to remind your child to do it. This can sometimes be better than a
parent asking over and over.
Make using the spirometer a game. For example, when watching TV, try to do 10
breaths during each commercial break. Give younger kids stickers for reaching their