What to Know About COPD and Cough

Medically Reviewed by Paul Boyce, MD on September 24, 2022
2 min read

An ongoing cough is a common symptom of COPD, especially when it comes with mucus. It isn’t pleasant, but there are ways to manage it. Here’s what you need to know to breathe easier.

COPD causes your lungs to make extra mucus. This often leads to a cough that won’t go away. It’s your body’s way of trying to clear your lungs.

But if you aren’t coughing the right way, it can make things worse. Your airways might narrow and start to spasm, or contract. This can trap mucus and trigger an ongoing cycle.

Controlled coughing starts deep in your lungs. It saves energy and helps you get rid of as much mucus as possible. Here’s how you do it:

  • Sit on the edge of your chair and keep both feet on the floor.
  • Lean forward a little
  • Relax and breathe in slowly through your nose.
  • Fold your arms over your belly.
  • Lean forward and push your arms against your belly while you breathe out.
  • Cough two or three times as you breathe out.
  • Make the coughs short and sharp, and push on your belly with your arms at the same time.
  • Breathe in again slowly and gently through your nose.
  • Rest and do it again if you need to.


Your doctor may prescribe medication to help soothe your cough. You can also take these steps:

  • Drink lots of water. This thins mucus and makes it easier to cough up.
  • Avoid air pollution. Stay away from cigarette smoke and other things that can irritate your lungs.
  • Don’t take quick, deep breaths through your mouth. Doing this after coughing can make it harder for mucus to leave the lungs. It could also lead to uncontrolled coughing.