Discharge Instructions: Using an Incentive Spirometer

An incentive spirometer is a device that helps you do deep breathing exercises. These exercises will help you breathe better and improve the function of your lungs. The incentive spirometer provides a way for you to take an active part in your recovery.

Follow these steps to use your incentive spirometer

Man in hospital gown sitting with pillow held to abdomen. Other hand is holding incentive spirometer. Spirometer mouthpiece is in man's mouth, arrows show him breathing in.

Inhale normally. Relax and breathe out.

  • Place your lips tightly around the mouthpiece.

  • Make sure the device is upright and not tilted.

  • Inhale as much air as you can through the mouthpiece (don't breathe through your nose). If you inhale too quickly, the spirometer may make a noise. If you hear this noise, inhale more slowly.

  • Hold your breath long enough to keep the balls (or disk) raised for at least 5 seconds.

  • Do this exercise every hour while you’re awake or as often as your health care provider instructs.

  • If you were also taught coughing exercises, perform them regularly as instructed.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.


When to seek medical care

Call your health care provider immediately if you have any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath that is not relieved by your medication

  • Chest pain

  • Fever above 101.0°F  (38.3°C)

  • Brownish, bloody, or smelly sputum

  • Blue lips or fingernails