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 Kids Need an Incentive Spirometer?
Breathing deeply helps get enough air into your lungs so they inflate
as much as possible. Breathing slowly helps get air into all parts
of your lungs, not just one part of them.
When kids don't breathe deeply enough, fluid and germs can build up in their lungs.
They might get infections like pneumonia. Using an incentive
spirometer can help stop this from happening.
Doing incentive spirometry doesn't just help kids who are healing from surgery.
It also helps some people with conditions that affect the lungs, like cystic fibrosis.
How Does an Incentive Spirometer Work?
An incentive spirometer is made of hollow, clear plastic. It has a tube with a
The main part of the spirometer shows how deeply you breathe in.
There is a big grid with lines and numbers on the spirometer. As you breathe into
the mouthpiece, a piston moves up the lines. The piston is the large blue disc in
the main part of the spirometer, pictured above.
The more air you breathe into your lungs, the higher the piston goes. Your care
team will move a slider on the main grid to set a goal for how deeply you should breathe.
A range indicator on the side of the spirometer shows how slowly
you breathe in. Next to the main part of the spirometer, you will see an
area with arrows or lines showing a range. As you breathe in, a ball (or other kind
of indicator) goes up and down. If you breathe in too fast, it shoots to the top.
You need to breathe in slowly — but not too slowly — to keep the indicator
in the target range.
At first, it can be hard to reach your goal. That's normal. Incentive spirometry
is like any workout: The more you do it, the easier it is to get to your goal.
How Often Do Kids Do Incentive Spirometry?
How often you need to use the spirometer depends on why you're doing it:
The spirometer helps you get better after surgery, but you will probably practice
it at home first. This helps you get used to using it and learn what it feels like
to do it right. After surgery, you will need to use the spirometer about 10 times
each hour when you're awake.
For a Lung Illness
People with cystic fibrosis might need to use the spirometer
when they do their breathing treatments. People with sickle
cell disease might use the spirometer at home or if they're in the hospital with
lung problems or pain.
Your care team will let you know when to use the spirometer. They can give you
ideas for turning spirometry into a game — for example, when you're watching
TV, set a goal to do 10 breaths during each commercial break.