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Terminal congestion is a distinctive sound that a person may make as they are coming to the end of their life and may no longer be able to swallow or cough effectively enough to clear their saliva. While the congestion can be difficult to hear, it does not usually cause pain or discomfort to the person. When the person takes a deeper breath, the congestion sounds may be louder because the deeper, more forceful breath is moving against the secretions in the back of the throat. If the person can’t clear their secretions, reposition them into the “recovery position”— flat, side-lying position with their head tilted back.


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