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Preventing Pneumonia After Surgery

Anytime you are in the hospital, your lungs need help to prevent pneumonia. pneumonia is a potentially life threatening condition and can cause serious complications.


“ICOUGH” is an acronym to remind you of the simple activities necessary for good lung function. These simple activities, including early and frequent mobilization, lung exercises, oral hygiene and education will help prevent you from developing lung complications, such as pneumonia, while you are in the hospital.



Breathing Meditation

Inhale and hold for 3 seconds or use Incentive Spirometry (a breathing device) to help you expand your lungs and open the airways throughout your lungs.


Taking a deep breath will help loosen any mucus in your lungs. Mucus is a good environment for pneumonia germs to grow in.


ough and deep breathe

Image by Towfiqu barbhuiya

Deep breaths and full coughs will improve oxygen delivery to your healing tissues and remove any mucus in your lungs.

1. Take a faster deep breath IN and cough. Get rid of that mucus!

2. Take a 30 second break.

Repeat 2 more times.

Do Deep Breath and Cough: 3 times every 30 minutes



Image by Diana Polekhina

Brushing your mouth (teeth, gums and tongue) decreases the amount of germs in your mouth which could move down into your lungs and cause pneumonia.

Brush your mouth (teeth, gums, and tongue). 3 times a day: morning, noon and night. Do this even if you are not eating.


p - elevate the head of the bed

Hospital Bed

Being in an upright position will help expand your lungs.  Elevate the head of the bed 30-45° while in bed at all times.


Ask your health care provider if there are any restrictions to getting up and moving.


et moving, get out of bed

Nursing an Elderly

When it is safe to do so you will be assisted out of bed and you will go for walks. Activity helps your lungs to expand and also remove any mucus from your lungs. Be active and moving as often as you can. 


Sitting up during and for at least 15 minutes after meals aids in preventing food from slipping into your lungs which would provide a place for germs to grow.



ave a conversation

Doctor and Patient

It is important for you and your family to understand how to perform these activities and why it is so important to do so. This will speed up your recovery during your hospital admission.


Make sure to ask someone on your health care team if you are unsure of how or when to perform these activities.

Pain Medicine

If you are experiencing pain, make sure you ask your nurse for pain medication so you can be as comfortable as possible. Good pain relief is necessary for you to perform the activities described in this pamphlet. Being unable to take a deep breath increases your risk of getting pneumonia.


Use of Incentive Spirometry:

1. Exhale normally, letting all the breath out.

2. Hold the spirometer in an upright position and close your lips around the mouthpiece.

3. Inhale through mouth until the balls are raised completely; hold the balls up for 2–3 seconds.

4. Remove the mouthpiece and exhale.

Use Incentive Spirometer: 3 times every 30 minutes

Triball Incentive Spirometer_edited_edit
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