Self-management for bronchiectasis

Find out how to manage your bronchiectasis at home. We also have information on managing a flare-up of your condition. 

Your self-management plan

You and your healthcare professional should fill in a self-management plan together. This plan can help you to look after your bronchiectasis.

The British Thoracic Society (BTS) has a bronchiectasis self-management plan that you can download.

Self-management checklist

Your plan should cover:  

  • how and when to clear your chest 
  • what medications you take, and when to take them
  • when to re-order medications 
  • what to do if you get a chest infection including where you keep your rescue antibiotics, and when to take them, and checking the colour of your phlegm
  • when to get emergency help 
  • how to stay healthy such as eating well, drinking plenty of water, staying away from people who are unwell if you can 
  • if you smoke, advice on how to quit 
  • reminders for your annual flu vaccine, your COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, and the one-off pneumonia vaccine 
  • a reminder of where your phlegm (sputum) pots are kept at home.

You can also fill out our symptom diary as part of your self-management. It's quick and easy to do, and you can email the results to yourself and share them with your doctor at your next appointment. 

Managing flare-ups

Understanding your usual symptoms will help you to notice any changes in your lung health.

If your symptoms have been worse than normal for more than two days, you may be having a flare-up. You might:

  • feel generally unwell
  • cough up more phlegm (sputum)
  • have different colour phlegm 
  • feel more breathless.

Agree with your doctor about what to do if you have a flare-up. You can write this in your self-management plan. You may be given antibiotics to keep at home.

If you’re having a flare-up, you should:

  • do your airway clearance exercise at least twice a day 
  • take your medication as prescribed 
  • drink plenty of water 
  • send a phlegm (sputum) sample to your GP or hospital 
  • start taking your rescue antibiotics if you know when you need to take them. If you’re not sure, always talk to your GP or doctor.

Looking after yourself

Keep active

Keeping active as much as possible will help to clear phlegm (sputum) from your lungs. Keeping active can also give you more energy and help you to sleep better.  

Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist about the right exercises for you. You can also watch our exercise videos and read our exercise information.

You may also want to find out about pulmonary rehabilitation (PR). PR is a treatment programme that can help you to stay active with bronchiectasis. 

Eat a healthy diet

What you eat is important. A healthy diet can help you stay fit and strong. Getting the right vitamins can help your body to fight infections.  

Keeping to a healthy weight is also important because:

  • if you are overweight you may feel more breathless than usual 
  • if you are underweight, you may be at more risk of infections.

We have lots of information on eating well. You can also ask your GP or doctor to see a dietitian who can help you with managing nutrition and weight.


Living with a long-term lung condition like bronchiectasis can be different for everyone. You may have times when you have few symptoms, and times when your symptoms are harder to manage.

Remember that you are not alone. Talking to friends, family, or your doctor can help. It’s important to stay active and sociable. Learning about bronchiectasis can also help you to understand and manage your condition.

You can also speak to other people living with bronchiectasis. Our patient support groups help people living with a lung condition and their families. Enter your postcode to find your local group. You can also join our web community.

Find out more about looking after your mental health.

Avoid infections

Bronchiectasis can make you more likely to get chest infections. You can try to avoid infections where possible by:

  • avoiding people with colds and chest infections 
  • washing your hands regularly, and asking people you’re with to do the same
  • making sure you’re up to date with your flu, coronavirus and pneumococcal vaccines.

Get support

Call or WhatsApp our Helpline for support with your condition. Get advice on your medicines, symptoms or travelling with a lung condition, or just call us to say hello.

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We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 0300 222 5800 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

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