This guide has been written by people with bronchiectasis to help others living with this condition. The guide highlights why self-care is so important in being able to live well with bronchiectasis. Read about what works for many in terms of physiotherapy, exercise, diet, coping with breathlessness and fatigue, and taking care of your mental health.
General advice to remember
It is good advice for people with bronchiectasis to look after their general health. Eat a healthy balanced diet and take regular physical exercise. Dehydration can make mucus thicker and harder to clear and so you should stay well hydrated.
Remember to take your medications as prescribed and get the annual influenza vaccination as well as the one-off pneumococcal vaccination.
As people with bronchiectasis are at higher risk of picking up infections, it is a good idea to wash your hands before eating, but also before preparing medications, performing chest clearance or any other medical procedures e.g. cleaning nebulisers.
Try to do some exercise every day
Exercising and keeping active can help clear mucus from your lungs and can often give you more energy and help you sleep better.
It has been proven that working the lungs through exercise actually improves breathlessness and reduces tiredness. Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist about the best exercise for you and try to do some every day, building up gradually.
Keeping your chest clear of mucus (sputum)
Everyone with bronchiectasis should see a respiratory physiotherapist to be shown how to use chest clearance techniques. Ask your doctor to refer you.
A physiotherapist will assess you and examine your chest. They will discuss which methods can help you remove mucus (sputum) from your lungs and help you choose the best techniques for you. These are called Airway Clearance Techniques.
It is very important to clear your chest of as much sputum as possible to help reduce the number of chest infections that you have. The techniques shown below will help to reduce the obstruction in your airways, improve the amount of air getting into your lungs and help to reduce bacterial infections.
Your physiotherapist can advise on how to manage your breathlessness
Most people get breathless from time to time, for example when you exercise or run for a bus. This passes quickly and should not be too uncomfortable.
However, some people with bronchiectasis can get breathless very easily. This breathlessness tends to be uncomfortable, severe and can come on with very little exertion. It can also make you feel very anxious.
Coping with low mood and depression
Feeling down for some of the time is a natural reaction as you learn to accept, and adapt to, your condition.
If you are feeling low for most of the time you could be depressed. Talk to someone and let them know how you are feeling.
Lots of people with bronchiectasis find online forums and support groups very important. Connecting with others who understand how it feels to have the condition can help you feel less alone. See Support in your language.
Your doctor or practice nurse have lots of experience of people with chronic conditions and may also be good people to speak to.
An exacerbation is also sometimes called a chest infection or a "flare up" of bronchiectasis.
Recommendations for travelling with bronchiectasis
Based on 'Recommendations for travelling with bronchiectasis: a joint ELF/EMBARC/ERN-Lung collaboration' and supplemented by tips from travellers with bronchiectasis.A bronchiectasis diagnosis does not mean you have to give up travel, whether on holiday or for business. You just have to think ahead about fitting your normal medication and physiotherapy into your travel schedule. Talk to your doctor and plan it together.
Advice on what you need to know before you go:
See also Drugs in development