Laryngectomy and Electrolarynx guide – Humidity And You
Usually, the air that enters into the airways passes through the nose and mouth before arriving at the lungs. This process allows the inspired air to become filtered and humidified, providing the lungs a worm and moisturized breathing air.
Inspired air is taken from the relative humidity of the ambient air and moisturized up to 100% by the time it reaches the gas exchange units in the lungs, called alveoli. At the same time, harmful particles are removed by the mucus blanket, which coats the lining of the nose and throat.
On the other hand, in laryngectomy patients who have a surgically placed stoma, this filtration/humidifying process does not exist anymore. For this reason, the lungs respond protectively by producing an increased amount of mucus to filter and humidify the air that enters the respiratory system. Bloody sputum can result when coughing excessively to clear up the increased amount of mucus. Patients can also become more prone to develop bronchitis due to the breathing of unfiltered and dehumidified air.
To avoid these problems, laryngectomy patients need to do everything possible in order to increase the amount of moisture in the inhaled air.
The stoma needs to be sprayed with sterile water or a saline solution 3 to 4 times per day. This is an essential thing to do and is necessary for the patients to seek the proper consultations on this subject from nurses or doctors who will gladly teach how to do it.
Placing a cool-mist humidifier in the bedroom will help patients to breathe moisturized air during sleep hours. Fresh water needs to be put in daily and every week or two, to prevent bacteria, the filter needs to be cleaned and soaked with a solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach in 1 gallon of clean water.
Some patients increase the retention of warmth and humidity in their trachea and lungs by wearing stoma bibs, foam stoma protectors, scarfs, turtleneck shirts, or sweaters. By covering the stoma, the moisture inside the lungs will not leave these so easily when exhaling.
The stoma bibs can become portable humidifiers just by dampening them with clean saline water. Other options include wearing a soft stoma vent, which needs to have the proper size for each patient.
While stoma care is critical, cleaning and caring for your electrolarynx is essential too. Speech aid devices need to be kept in good condition to reassure they are operating correctly and to prevent infection. See our detailed guide cleaning and maintaining your electrolarynx.
Is very common for patients to feel anxious about returning to their daily routines. However, patience is necessary. The whole respiratory system, especially the trachea and lungs will adapt and improve within 3 to 4 months after the laryngectomy.