The Benefits of Pursed Lip Breathing for Shortness of Breath: Enhancing Wellness with PEP Buddy

The Benefits of Pursed Lip Breathing for Shortness of Breath: Enhancing Wellness with PEP Buddy

The Benefits of Pursed Lip Breathing for Shortness of Breath:
Enhancing Wellness with PEP Buddy

Shortness of breath, or dyspnea, can be a distressing symptom affecting individuals with various respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and even anxiety disorders. Among the numerous strategies to manage and alleviate this condition, pursed lip breathing (PLB) stands out as a simple yet remarkably effective technique. When combined with innovative devices like the PEP Buddy, PLB can significantly improve quality of life. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of pursed lip breathing, delve into the mechanisms behind its effectiveness, and discuss how to incorporate a PEP Buddy device into your daily practice for optimal respiratory health.

Understanding Pursed Lip Breathing

Pursed lip breathing is a technique that involves breathing in through the nose and exhaling slowly through tightly pressed lips, as if blowing out a candle. This method helps to control breathlessness, increase oxygenation, and promote relaxation.

How Pursed Lip Breathing Works

The effectiveness of pursed lip breathing lies in its ability to regulate the airflow and pressure within the lungs. Here’s a closer look at the physiological mechanisms:

  1. Prolonged Exhalation: By exhaling slowly through pursed lips, the technique helps to keep the airways open for a longer duration, allowing for more complete emptying of the lungs. This prevents air trapping, a common issue in conditions like COPD.
  2. Reduced Respiratory Rate: PLB encourages slower, more deliberate breathing, which can help lower the overall respiratory rate. This reduction eases the work of breathing and can significantly diminish feelings of breathlessness.
  3. Increased Positive Airway Pressure: The resistance created by pursed lips during exhalation generates positive pressure in the airways, preventing their collapse and facilitating better air exchange. This is especially beneficial for individuals with obstructive lung disease.
  4. Improved Oxygen-Carbon Dioxide Exchange: By promoting more efficient ventilation, PLB can enhance the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, leading to better oxygenation of the blood and removal of waste gases.

Benefits of Pursed Lip Breathing

The physiological impacts of pursed lip breathing translate into several tangible benefits:

  1. Enhanced Respiratory Efficiency: PLB helps to improve the efficiency of breathing, making each breath more effective in terms of gas exchange. This is particularly beneficial during physical exertion or episodes of breathlessness.
  2. Reduced Breathlessness: By slowing down the rate of breathing and preventing air trapping, PLB can alleviate the sensation of shortness of breath. This makes daily activities more manageable and less taxing.
  3. Improved Relaxation: The technique’s focus on slow, controlled breathing promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety. This can be especially helpful for individuals whose breathlessness is exacerbated by panic or stress.
  4. Better Exercise Tolerance: Regular practice of PLB can enhance exercise tolerance by improving the body’s ability to manage oxygen and carbon dioxide levels during physical activity.
  5. Increased Lung Function: Over time, the use of PLB can contribute to improved lung function by strengthening respiratory muscles and enhancing airway stability.

Incorporating PEP Buddy into Daily Practice

The PEP Buddy is a portable, easy-to-use device designed to assist with pursed lip breathing. It works by providing a controlled resistance during exhalation, similar to the natural resistance created by pursed lips, but in a more structured and measurable manner.

How to Use the PEP Buddy

  1. Initial Setup: Familiarize yourself with the device. It comes pre-assembled with clear instructions and is available in two levels. Level 1 has less resistance. Level 2 is for those already using PLB and needing more resistance on exhalation.
  2. Inhalation: Begin by taking a slow, deep breath in through your nose, filling your lungs all the way to the top.
  3. Exhalation: Place the PEP Buddy in your mouth and exhale gently and steadily through the device. The resistance should feel like exhaling through pursed lips. Focus on making the exhalation last longer than the inhalation.
  4. Regular Practice: Incorporate the PEP Buddy into your daily routine. Start with a few minutes at a time and gradually increase the duration as you become more comfortable with the technique.
  5. During Activity: Use the PEP Buddy during activities that typically cause breathlessness, such as climbing stairs or walking, to help manage your breathing more effectively.
  6. During Breathwork: Use PEP Buddy during breathwork sessions to further retard exhalation and improve breath control.
  7. Monitor your breath during use and experiment with techniques that improve your symptoms. Monitoring your SpO2 while using PEP Buddy can help to gain confidence.

Benefits of Using PEP Buddy

  1. Consistency and Control: The PEP Buddy provides consistent resistance, ensuring that each breath is effective and beneficial. This consistency can be challenging to achieve with pursed lips alone, especially when fatigued or anxious.
  2. Portability: The device is small and portable with an integrated lanyard, making it easy to carry with you and use whenever needed. This convenience encourages regular use and practice.
  3. Enhanced Feedback: The structured resistance of the PEP Buddy offers better feedback, helping users to maintain proper technique and avoid common pitfalls such as too-rapid exhalation.
  4. Adaptability: The PEP Buddy can be used in various settings, whether you are at home, at work, or on the go. Its versatility ensures that you can incorporate PLB into your lifestyle seamlessly.

Incorporating Pursed Lip Breathing and PEP Buddy into Your Routine

To maximize the benefits of pursed lip breathing and the PEP Buddy, consider the following tips for integrating these practices into your daily life:

  1. Start with Short Sessions: Begin with brief sessions of PLB, using the PEP Buddy for a few minutes each time. Gradually increase the duration as you become more accustomed to the technique and device.
  2. Set Reminders: Use reminders on your phone or write notes to prompt yourself to practice PLB with the PEP Buddy throughout the day, especially during activities that typically cause breathlessness.
  3. Combine with Other Techniques: Integrate PLB with other breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, or mindfulness practices to create a comprehensive approach to managing breathlessness.
  4. Monitor Progress: Keep a journal to track your progress, noting any changes in breathlessness, respiratory rate, and overall comfort. This can help you stay motivated and identify patterns that may influence your breathing.
  5. Seek Professional Guidance: Consult with a respiratory therapist or healthcare provider to ensure you are using the PEP Buddy correctly and to receive personalized advice based on your specific condition and needs.


Pursed lip breathing is a powerful, easy-to-learn technique that offers significant benefits for individuals experiencing shortness of breath. When paired with the PEP Buddy, this practice becomes even more effective, providing structured resistance and enhancing overall respiratory efficiency. By incorporating these tools into your daily routine, you can experience improved breath control, reduced breathlessness, and enhanced overall well-being. Whether you are managing a chronic respiratory condition or looking to improve your breathing during physical activity, PLB and the PEP Buddy offer a simple, accessible solution for better respiratory health.

About the author:

Gina Hoots is a dedicated respiratory therapist and health coach at Hootenanny Joy Health and Wellness. With a passion for empowering individuals to achieve optimal respiratory health, Gina combines her expertise in therapeutic techniques and holistic wellness practices. Her thoughtful approaches have transformed the lives of many dealing with breathlessness and other respiratory challenges. Connectwith Gina to explore how you can enhance your well-being.

Please enjoy 10% off your PEP Buddy purchase by using my personal referral code HOOTJOY10 at

Embracing Change: A Look into the 2024 GOLD Guidelines for COPD

Embracing Change: A Look into the 2024 GOLD Guidelines for COPD

Embracing Change: A Look into the 2024 GOLD Guidelines for COP

In pulmonary medicine, keeping up with the latest advancements and evidence is crucial for providing optimal care to patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) guidelines provide evidence-based recommendations for COPD diagnosis, management, and prevention. First released in 1997, GOLD is a collaboration between the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the World Health Organization. GOLD’s objectives are to raise awareness of COPD, improve prevention and management, and encourage research. GOLD organizes World COPD Day on the third Wednesday of November to spread awareness. Since 2014, GOLD has been funded through the sale of reports and resources.


The GOLD guidelines use a combined assessment of symptoms and exacerbation risk to determine initial treatment. They propose escalating or de-escalating treatment based on symptoms like shortness of breath and frequency of flare-ups. The guidelines outline both drug and non-drug options for stable COPD, with the goals of reducing symptoms and future exacerbations. GOLD guidelines provide a framework for individualized COPD care. They aim to support clinicians and patients in achieving the best outcomes through proper diagnosis, treatment, and self management. The guidelines translate research into practical recommendations that evolve as new evidence comes to light.

In this overview of the annual revisions to the Global Initiative on Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) guidelines for 2024, we’ll explore key changes shaping our practice and improving patient outcomes. With over 30 years in the field, I’ve witnessed the evolution of our understanding of obstructive lung disease beyond the traditional FEV1/FVC ratio and treatment with Q4 albuterol nebs. This comprehensive 218-page document compiles volumes of research into a digestible resource for pulmonary diagnosticians worldwide and for respiratory therapists like myself.

Chapter 1: Definition and Overview

Let’s begin with the basics: understanding COPD and its implications. The GOLD 2024 report maintains the definition of COPD largely unchanged from previous years: “COPD is a heterogeneous lung condition characterized by chronic respiratory symptoms (dyspnea, cough, expectoration, and/or exacerbation) due to abnormalities of the airways (bronchitis, bronchiolitis) and/or alveoli (emphysema) that cause persistent, often progressive, airflow obstruction.” While most readers are familiar with Stage 4 / Category D / end-stage COPD presentations, new terminology and discussions have been introduced to better classify COPD. Today, we know that lung function is related to epigenetic changes in response to exposure to the environment over an individual’s lifetime. We also know that while COPD is both preventable and treatable, underdiagnosis can lead to unnecessary suffering and disease progression. This section will aim to review terminology that has changed in recent years.

 Clarification of the terms Early/Young/Mild COPD:

  • Early: Reflects the disease’s initial signs and symptoms.
  • Young: Indicates an onset at a younger age (e.g., 20-30s).
  • Mild: Describes the degree of obstruction present.

 Pre-COPD: Normal spirometry but with symptoms and risk factors present.

 PRISm: Preserved Ratio but Impaired Spirometry. Expands on individuals with low FEV1 and symptoms, despite preserved ratio, often associated with increased cardiovascular risk and potential transition to obstruction over time.

 Hyperinflation: While not a new term, hyperinflation has new importance in the 2024 document. Hyperinflation is characterized by elevated lung air volume compared to normal, associated with dyspnea, impaired exercise tolerance, and increased mortality, even in individuals with mild obstruction.

 Chapter 2: Diagnosis and Assessment

Diagnosing and assessing COPD require a comprehensive approach, and the 2024 updates provide insights into refining this process. Notable updates include clarification on pre-bronchodilator spirometry, enhanced screening methods, and updates on assessing blood eosinophil count for a more nuanced understanding of COPD diagnosis and assessment. Many charts and algorithms are presented for clarity and easy of reference.

 Spirometry Update:

  • Recommends post-dilator testing for diagnosis, clarifying that post-bronchodilator testing may not be necessary if obstruction is absent pre-dilator.
  • Ongoing follow-up is warranted if obstruction is present with responsiveness due to increased risk of developing fixed obstruction in the future.
  • Large-scale screening programs for the general public are not recommended, but screening for persons at risk for COPD is advised.

 Update: Other Diagnostic Tests

  • Lung cancer screening may offer an opportunity for COPD screening due to shared risk factors.
  • Blood eosinophil elevation is associated with responsiveness to inhaled corticosteroids.
  • Interstitial lung abnormalities are addressed, and presence of findings raise concern for poor outcomes.

 Chapter 3: Prevention and Management of COPD

Preventing symptoms and managing risks are central to COPD care, and the 2024 updates provide a roadmap for optimizing these efforts. Previously separated into two chapters, this chapter was merged to reduce redundancies. With a renewed focus on smoking cessation strategies, including pharmaceutical options, the guidelines emphasize evidence-based, holistic approaches despite challenges such as continued smoking among approximately 40% of diagnosed COPD patients.

 Smoking Cessation Update:

  • All smokers should be strongly advised to quit using supportive strategies.
  • Nicotine replacement and pharmaceutical support are widely available.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy and goal setting are effective non-pharmaceutical strategies.

 Inhaled Medication Update:

  • Stress on individualized medication selection based on ability and choice.
  • Utilize assessment criteria, inhalation strength, breath hold, manual dexterity, and insurance coverage.
  • Emphasizes minimizing the number of devices and utilizing effective device education.
  • Discussion of factors such as once-daily dosing may create improved adherence.

 Non-Pharmacological Updates:

  • Aligns vaccination recommendations with CDC guidance.
  • Recommends the use of hospice, palliative care, and tele-health.
  • Highlights non-pharmacological therapies such as oxygen and pulmonary rehab, stressing personalized treatment approaches tailored to individual patient needs.

 Chapters 4-6: Management of Exacerbations, COPD and Comorbidities, and COVID-19 and COPD

These chapters have no major updates and continue to address the challenges posed by exacerbations, the complexity of COPD comorbidities, and the unique considerations of COPD management in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The chapter on co-morbidities covers an extensive list which reinforces the need to monitor patients closely as multimorbidity causes complex medical management.

 What You Can Do

  • Assess your COPD patients using the new guidelines to determine the right treatment path.
  • Educate patients on self-management, risk reduction, and the importance of medication adherence and follow-up care.
  • Follow up regularly to evaluate if treatments need adjustment to gain control of symptoms and reduce exacerbations.
  • Promote regular pulmonary rehabilitation attendance.
  • Encouraging shared responsibility is important as patients and providers together can optimize COPD management and outcomes.

 In conclusion, the 2024 updates to the GOLD guidelines for COPD reflect the latest evidence, with seven pages of references added this year alone. By embracing these updates and integrating them into our practice, we can elevate the standard of care for COPD patients, empowering them to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. Health coaching is a relatively new area in which health care providers are uniquely positioned to make yet another positive difference on outcomes in persons with COPD. As respiratory therapists, we are at the forefront of change, driving progress and innovation in the pursuit of better respiratory health for all.

Asmtha Guidelines – The Latest from Gina

Asmtha Guidelines – The Latest from Gina

Asthma Guidelines: The Latest From GINA


The Global Initiative for Asthma, or GINA, guidelines are considered
the gold standard for asthma care worldwide. This provides an
overview of the key updates and takeaways of the most effective
strategies to gain and maintain control of asthma. While asthma is a
chronic disease, following the recommendations from leading experts
can help your patients breathe easier and enjoy life fully.

Key Changes in the 2023 GINA Asthma Guidelines

 The latest GINA guidelines for 2023 bring important updates for the management of asthma. The GINA Science Committee reviewed over
3,000 recent studies, and several key changes have been made.

     Of significance, there is new terminology for asthma medications to provide more clarity. The terms “maintenance treatment” and “ICS-containing treatment” now replace “controller medications”. “Anti-inflammatory relievers” or “AIR” refers to inhalers like ICS-formoterol that provide quick relief while reducing inflammation. Distinguishing between using an AIR alone or as “maintenance and reliever therapy” (MART) with an ICS is key.

 GINA also added guidance on explaining the “asthma management cycle” of assessing symptoms, adjusting treatment, and reviewing the response to patients. This reminds clinicians and patients of the essential elements of good asthma control.

 The 2023 GINA guidelines provide the latest recommendations to help people effectively manage their asthma. Following these
guidelines can help reduce symptoms, prevent attacks, and maintain good lung function and quality of life. Patients should talk to their doctors about the options in the new guidelines and develop an asthma action plan tailored to their needs.

Asthma Medication Terminology Explained

 Maintenance medications, also known as ‘controllers,’ are taken regularly to control asthma symptoms and reduce inflammation in the airways. The most common are inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), which can be combined with long-acting beta agonists (LABA) for more severe asthma. ICS are considered the most effective maintenance treatment for controlling asthma.

 Relievers, such as short-acting beta agonists (SABA), provide quick relief of asthma symptoms. Common in the United States, genericalbuterol includes brand names include Ventolin and Proair. Relievers should only be used occasionally and as directed.

 Anti-inflammatory relievers (AIR) have dual purposes, reducing inflammation and relieving symptoms. Inhaled corticosteroid-formoterol (ICS-formoterol) and inhaled corticosteroid-short-acting beta agonist (ICS-SABA) inhalers can be used as both maintenance and reliever therapy for asthma. Using an AIR inhaler for both purposes is known as maintenance and reliever therapy (MART). For example, budesonide-formoterol (Symbicort) can be taken regularly to control asthma and used as needed to relieve symptoms.

 When starting or adjusting treatment, the asthma management cycle involves assessing symptoms, adjusting medications based on GINA guidelines, and reviewing response. Understanding these terms and the cycle of care can help patients better manage their asthma.

 Using the correct terminology and understanding the different types of asthma medications is key to properly managing this chronic respiratory disease. Caregivers should work closely with doctors to determine the best asthma action plans for their patients based on symptom severity and lifestyle factors. With the right approach, people of all ages can keep their asthma well-controlled and live active lives.

 Ongoing Discussion About Defining Mild Asthma

 There is ongoing discussion in the medical community about clearly defining mild asthma. The current definition is retrospective, based on a patient’s symptoms and lung function over the previous few weeks. However, doctors use the term “mild asthma” in various ways during diagnosis, education, and treatment.

 GINA continues to discuss this issue with patients, primary care physicians, and specialists. They aim to provide interim guidance for using the term “mild asthma” appropriately in different contexts. For example, during diagnosis of a new patient, a doctor may describe asthma as mild based on symptoms and initial tests. When educating health professionals, a standard definition helps ensure patients get the same quality of care.

 In studies and clinical trials, a precise definition of mild asthma is necessary to evaluate treatment effects. However, no consensus has emerged on a universal definition. Factors like symptom frequency, nighttime awakenings, medication use, and lung function all provide insight, but no single measure is definitive. A patient’s own perception of “mild” symptoms may also differ from their doctor’s assessment.

 Resolving this complex issue will require ongoing collaboration between GINA, health organizations, and the asthma community. An updated, comprehensive definition of mild asthma could help improve communication, education, and the development of tailored treatment plans for patients. Patients would also benefit from a better understanding of how doctors diagnose and categorize the severity of their asthma.

New Advice for Managing Severe Asthma

 New biologic therapies for severe asthma are providing more treatment options, especially for those with allergic or eosinophilic
inflammation. According to the updated GINA guidelines, these advanced treatments should only be considered for patients with severe asthma whose symptoms remain uncontrolled despite optimized standard treatment.

Some biologics are approved for children as young as 6 years old. However, as with any medication, the risks and benefits must be carefully considered for each patient before prescribing biologic therapy, especially in pediatrics. Close monitoring is needed to determine if treatment goals are being met and whether adjustments or alternative treatments may be needed.

For the most severe and refractory asthma cases, newer biologics targeting other inflammatory pathways may provide relief when other treatments have failed. But the high cost of these advanced biologics underscores the need for improved access to affordable, essential asthma medications worldwide. Overall, biologics have expanded options for managing severe asthma, but should only be used when standard treatments are not enough. Careful patient selection and close monitoring remains key.

 Asthma Management Cycle

 The GINA 2023 report summarizes the asthma management cycle in seven steps. First, assess the patient’s symptoms and risk factors to determine their asthma control and severity. Then, select initial treatment based on asthma severity, and provide the patient with an action plan for managing exacerbations.

 Regular follow-up is needed to monitor the patient’s symptom control and risk factors, and adjust treatment as needed. At each visit, healthcare professionals should review the patient’s symptom control and risk factors, lung function, inhaler technique, and adherence. Adjustments to treatment may involve stepping up or stepping down therapy depending on the level of symptom control.

For patients with persistent symptoms and/or exacerbations despite regular treatment, consider alternative diagnoses or triggers, as well as difficult-to-treat asthma. Adjustments may also be needed for life changes like pregnancy or older age.

The asthma management cycle aims to empower patients to achieve and maintain good symptom control, optimize their lung function and quality of life, and reduce the risk of asthma exacerbations. By routinely following this cycle, doctors and patients can work together to find and adjust treatment plans tailored to the patient’s needs. The key is to take an individualized, patient-centered approach.

 GINA continues to update asthma guidelines based on the latest research to provide the best care and management
recommendations for people living with asthma. The most recent updates cover diagnosis and management of asthma for both
children and adults. The guidelines are meant to be a helpful reference for doctors and caregivers.

 For caregivers, the guidelines highlight the importance of creating asthma action plan, ensuring proper use of inhalers and spacers, reducing asthma triggers in the home, and helping manage asthma in schools or workplaces. Patient education and open communication with doctors are key. While asthma cannot be cured, with the right treatment and management, people can live active and unrestricted lives.

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