Paediatric respiratory physiotherapy


Spring is right around the corner and with it come allergies, colds, bronchiolitis, coughs and runny noses. In children up to two years of age, and especially those between three and six months, this may be a greater problem. See how physiotherapy can help.

Due to their weaker abdominal muscles, which do not permit a strong and effective cough, it is more difficult for babies to expel secretions that may accumulate in the throat and lungs.

Depending on the medical condition, mucus may originate in the nose and travel down the throat into the lungs. If not directly secreted by the lungs, it can stagnate and may lead to respiratory infection or distress if left untreated.

For parents new to such a situation, it might be a little frightening, especially when babies lose their appetite or if their sleeping patterns become altered.

Fortunately, respiratory physiotherapy can easily alleviate discomfort

The aim of respiratory physiotherapy is to clear a baby’s upper airways and lungs of any mucus that may restrict normal breathing, sleeping and eating patterns. In this way, bronchopulmonary infections and complications are avoided, the oxygen levels in the blood are improved, respiratory muscles increase in strength and resistance and the baby’s psychological and physical well-being are restored.

The respiratory physiotherapy session

A respiratory physiotherapy session begins with a conversation with the parents in order to better understand their baby’s symptoms and explain what will happen during the session. The physiotherapist also uses this time to listen to the baby’s lungs.

Some babies may feel uncomfortable and start to cry even before the session begins. It is important for parents to understand that this is natural and that they are not in any pain or discomfort and are simply frightened by their unfamiliar surroundings. Each child is different and the session should be tailored as such, with as many breaks as needed. As a general rule, the duration of a session is approximately 20 minutes.

Stimulation and relaxation techniques

The session mainly consists of a series of techniques in which the physiotherapist places his or her hands on the baby’s thorax and abdomen and, by applying slight pressure, increases air flow, thus moving the secretions that have accumulated in the bronchi. In doing so, mucus can be loosened and removed by induced coughing, with any swallowed mucus traveling to the stomach, where the stomach acid safely eliminates bacteria or viruses. Parents can verify that any swallowed secretions have been eliminated, as their child will either have more fluid or mucus-like stool or secretions will be thrown up. Both processes are natural and safe.

These techniques can be adapted according to the baby’s age and can even be used with newborns. Babies will not suffer any injuries and it is normal – and often beneficial – for them to cry during the session, as the vibrations generated by crying are transmitted to the lower airways and help to remove secretions.

Paediatric respiratory physiotherapy is recommended for:

– bronchiolitis

– premature babies

– bacterial infections

– unresolved respiratory infections

– reactions to breathing in cold air

– otitis

– teething

– asthma

Paediatric respiratory physiotherapy is not recommended for babies with any of the following symptoms:

– fever

– respiratory distress

– very dry secretions which are unresponsive to coughing

– secretions which are already being successfully expelled by the baby on his/her own


Best Doctors recommends that parents begin physiotherapy in consultation with their GP.

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