Cough assist

Graphic showing portable cough assist machine being used


Your Cough Assist is a machine that can help you clear secretions or ‘phlegm’ from your lungs. The aim of the treatment is to help you breathe in and out deeply and quickly. This can help when your own cough is not strong enough. The Cough Assist is usually given by a mask over your mouth and nose. The machine delivers a supported breath to make sure your breath in, is deep enough. After this, the machine helps you breathe out quickly and you would feel a gentle ‘sucking’ sensation.

The Cough Assist resource page has been developed in collaboration with Leeds Sleep and Complex Ventilation Service.

Why do you need a cough assist machine?

You have a Cough Assist machine to keep your chest healthy. The machine helps you to take deep breaths. It blows air into your lungs and then sucks the air back out. This is what happens when you cough. Coughing is the body’s way of clearing mucus from the lungs. If your cough is not strong enough to clear the mucus from your lungs, a cough assist machine can help.

Top Tips

  • Your machine may look a little different to the one in the video but it will work the same.  Refer to the manual that came with your machine if needed. 
  • It can feel strange when you first start to use your machine.
  • You can stop at any time.
  • When you use the machine, it blows air into all parts of the lungs. This can loosen any mucus that needs to come up. It might make you cough. This is good. You might not cough straight away. That’s OK- it’s still working.
  • If you can, agree a signal with the person who is helping you that means you want to stop
  • Do not use your cough assist machine when you are eating or drinking. It is best used on an empty stomach.

Plug the lead into the back of the machine.

 Put the tube into the front.

 Attach the filter to the other end of the tube.

 Attach the mask to the filter.

 Use the power button to turn on your cough assist.

 The machine has been programmed especially for you. You do not need to change any settings.

 When you are ready, your mask should be placed over your nose and mouth.

 It needs to be held tight so that no air can escape from the sides.

 Press the start button to start or stop the airflow.

 Your machine will blow air in and then suck the air out. This is one breath.

 There will be a short pause before the next breath. 

 The machine will give you a set number of breaths.

 Leave your mask on until the end of your programme.

 Your machine will stop when it has finished.

 You may need to repeat these steps for a set number of cycles. 

 Your care plan will tell you how many cycles are right for you.

 You can now remove your mask and switch your machine off.

 You should use your cough assist twice a day.

 You can use it more often if you are chesty.

Every day, check and wipe your mask with a clean damp cloth and allow it to air dry.

Change your filter every week.

Every week wash the mask with warm soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and leave to air dry.

If you have any problems with your cough assist you can call the number on the machine or speak to the person who gave you it, to ask for help.