What is Tracheitis?
The nose warms, moistens, and filters the air we breathe as the air travels down into the lungs. If you have either a laryngectomy or tracheostomy, this system is by-passed. You may have trouble keeping your upper airways moist. This may cause a dry irritated airway also known as tracheitis.
This handout is to help you prevent tracheitis, coughing spells, and thick secretions which are hard to cough up and could plug your airway.
If you live in a colder climate, you need a proper humidity system in your home. Heat sources can rob moisture from the air in your home making it harder to breathe.
Here are some ways to make sure you get enough humidity.
1. Place a large capacity (9-10 gallon) room humidifier in the main living area. A floor model with wheels is easier to move. Some insurance policies cover this purchase if it is prescribed by your doctor. Check with your insurance company.
2. Place a small vaporizer at the bedside to add moisture at night.
3. Place shallow pans of water on top of the radiator at home. This is an easy and low-cost way to add moisture to room air.
4. For those who have newer home heating systems, change your built-in humidistat to keep the relative humidity at the correct level (45-50%). If not, try using a low-cost gauge to keep the level at 50%. These can be found at a hardware store.
5. Make a steam-filled bathroom. This is most helpful for clearing thick secretions. Turn hot water on in the shower, close the bathroom door, and allow steam to fill the room. Then, breathe in the moist air.
6. Use a home “mist” machine or nebulizer. Some insurance policies cover this purchase if prescribed by your doctor for treatment at home. You can get this machine from a medical supply vendor. Check with your insurance company.
7. Protect the stoma or trach tube by using gauze, a commercially made stoma cover, a crocheted bib, or other lint-free material. This helps humidify and warm the air that is breathed in.
Commercially available products such as Ocean®, Ayr® Saline Nasal Mist, and Salinex® can also be used. The tiny, pre-filled spray bottle can be carried in your pocket or purse. It is a handy source of humidity. You may mist your trachea or stoma every 1–2 hours, if needed. You can refill the bottle with saline as needed. You can make normal saline at home by adding 2 teaspoons of salt to one quart of boiling water. Cool and store the saline in the refrigerator. Throw out any unused saline after 1 week and make more if needed.
Be sure to use the saline solution regularly. Living in the cold climate of the upper Midwest you may need to use saline as often as every two hours. Drink plenty of liquids. By drinking 6-8 eight-ounce glasses of liquids a day, you can help keep the secretions thin.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 08/10/2011
Copyright © 08/10/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5317
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