Recently I heard the advice “Always take longer to breathe OUT than you took to breathe IN.”
That was the best way to describe what I had already discovered, and which has helped me out of many potentially embarrassing situations when there is a continuing need to clear my throat or cough to clear mucus from air passages.
Back in the days when teacher training involved an introduction to speech therapy I had discovered abdominal breathing — using the diaphragm to get the air to the very bottom of the lungs. I cultivated that habit, so much so that I seldom breathe shallowly, and if I do hyperventilate it is usually after talking or rushing a lot, or when the weather changes to damp — I also question air conditioning or sitting in a draught.
That’s when the “Ahem” Bug kicks in. If I’m in a concert or seminar it’s a nuisance — but a nuisance I’ve been able to conquer without having to take out an inhaler, shake it and puff away.
I learned to trust this breathing sequence.
Understanding and trust began when I saw on an Internet site a diagram of lungs during asthma. Stale air gathered at the bottom of the lungs when the person breathed shallowly (using the shoulders) and there was not sufficient time between breaths for that stale air to exit. The stale air was (or initiated) an irritation.
My sequence took shape: take 3 deep breaths as if from a hole in the back of your waist (feeling your sides expand). Breathe out slowly after each, but after the third time relax, without inhaling again, for as long as possible.
This takes determined control because your natural response will be to take a breath and hold it in an effort to stop coughing. Don’t do that!
And you can trust your body to breathe again when it absolutely has to!
Repeat the sequence until you can feel that your body has calmed down and breathing passages relaxed.
At this stage one very vigorous cough may move a mucus plug. Purse your lips as tightly as you can (goldfish style!) and put all your energy into one almighty cough.
If you can find some piping-hot water in a private place and preferably a comfy chair, take sips and try to burp strongly after each (I can offer no medical reason why, but this seems to help further).
So, that bit of advice “Always take longer to breathe OUT than you took to breathe IN” was it in a nutshell.
Might it help you, or someone you know?