Bronchiectasis

What can I do?

You know your body better than anyone else, so you’re key in managing your condition. Over time, you’ll recognise what is normal for you and the start of a flare-up.

Being able to work in partnership with your health care team is important. Agree a personalised self-management plan with them, to cover:

  • keeping your chest clear as advised by your physiotherapist
  • being active and exercising so you keep fit
  • drinking plenty of fluids and eating healthily
  • not visiting anyone who is unwell with a cold, flu or chest infection
  • if you smoke, stopping smoking
  • knowing how much sputum you normally have and its colour. You might like to keep a diary of your symptoms. See our bronchiectasis symptom diary (PDF, 174KB)
  • taking your medicines as prescribed and not allowing them to run out
  • agreeing a flare-up plan with your health care professional, and keeping stand-by antibiotics at home
  • submitting a sputum sample at least once a year or at every hospital appointment
  • getting a flu jab every year
  • having an annual check with your health care professional

Exercise

Any form of exercise that makes you a little breathless, such as walking and swimming will help you. It can help to clear your chest and improve your overall fitness. A respiratory physiotherapist can help you to find the right exercise for you and also advise you on managing any breathlessness, pacing yourself and conserving energy. Pulmonary rehabilitation can also help.

Eat healthily

What you eat is also important. A balanced and varied diet can help you maintain your strength and fitness. If your body is well nourished, you’ll be more able to fight infections. For some people with bronchiectasis, energy requirements from food will be higher.

Food is the fuel used by your body for all its activities and functioning, including breathing.

  • If you are overweight, your heart and lungs have to work harder to supply you with oxygen.
  • If you are underweight, you may be more at risk of infections.

The NHS eatwell guide is a useful way to check your diet is healthy and balanced. Ask to see a dietician who can help you with a specific plan to meet your individual needs.

Emotions and enjoying life

The impact of living with a long-term condition like bronchiectasis can vary from person to person. It can also vary over time – you may have times when you have few symptoms, and times when your symptoms are more troublesome.

Research with people who have bronchiectasis and their families found that living with the condition
can have emotional and physical impacts.

Remember that you are not alone: there are lots of others who have similar feelings. Don’t bottle things up – talking to a friend, relative or health care professional can help. It’s important to stay active and sociable, and to learn about bronchiectasis to help you understand and manage your condition.

“Mine fortunately is mild… generally I’m feeling so well that it hasn’t made any impact on me, but I think it has had an emotional impact on me, to find that there is something wrong.” Julie

You can get support from your family and friends, other patients, your health care team, or even information resources. Our Breathe Easy patient support groups support people living with a lung condition and their families. You could also join our web community where you can talk to others in similar situations.

“My experience has been greatly helped over the last two or three years, or two years, since I’ve met the bronchiectasis nurse… He personally has helped me a lot, both psychologically and obviously as a patient” Chris

Next: Caring for someone with bronchiectasis >

Download our bronchiectasis PDF (341 KB) Order your bronchiectasis information

Last medically reviewed: March 2017. Due for review: March 2020

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.