Noisy Secretions

Noisy breathing is an indicator of impending death, occurring in about half of people who are actively dying. It can sometimes be referred to as respiratory secretions, gurgly breathing and the death rattles.
This symptom can be exacerbated by the administration of parenteral fluids.

Noisy Secretions are common in the terminal phase of a palliative illness. It is controversial as to whether the medicines are beneficial.

Medicines Information

Open Access

palliAGEDgp smartphone application (available as an app or as online content) Tasmanian Adult Palliative Care Formulary


Open access

CareSearch Eastern Metropolitan Region Palliative Care Consortium (Victoria)

Subscription required

Therapeutic Guidelines: Palliative Care


  • Counselling the family that the patient is unlikely to be aware of, or distressed, by symptom is often helpful
  • Repositioning the patient from side to side can sometimes help them clear the secretions
  • Suction is unlikely to be helpful in most cases, and can be distressing for the patient

This content was developed for the Decision Assist program, and is managed by CareSearch
Page updated 18 September 2018