Pulmonary Edema

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What is Pulmonary Edema

Pulmonary edema is unusual buildup of fluid in the lungs. It makes it hard for a person to breathe. This condition is an emergency.

Follow these instructions at home:


  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your doctor.
  • If you were prescribed an antibiotic medicine, take it as told by your doctor. Do not stop taking the antibiotic even if you start to feel better.
  • Ask your doctor to help you write a plan with information about each medicine you take. This may include:
    • Why you are taking it.
    • Possible side effects.
    • Best time of day to take it.
    • Foods to take with it, or foods to avoid.
    • When to stop taking it.
  • Make a list of each medicine, vitamin, or herbal supplement you take.
    • Keep the list with you at all times.
    • Show the list to your doctor at each visit and before starting a new medicine.
    • Keep the list up to date.


  • Do regular exercise as told by your doctor. It is important to do it safely. You can do this by:
    • Asking your doctor what exercises and activities are good and safe for you to do.
    • Pacing your activities. This will prevent shortness of breath or chest pain.
    • Resting for at least 1 hour before and after meals.
    • Asking about cardiac rehabilitation programs. These may include:
      • Education.
      • Exercise plans.
      • Counseling.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet that is low in salt, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Your doctor may suggest foods that are high in fiber, such as:
    • Fresh fruits and vegetables.
    • Whole grains.
    • Beans.
  • Do not use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes and e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your doctor.

General instructions

  • Keep a record of your weight.
    • Record your hospital or clinic weight. When you get home, compare it to your scale and record your weight.
    • Weigh yourself first thing in the morning each day, and record the weights. You should weigh yourself every morning after you pee and before you eat breakfast. Wear the same amount of clothing each time you weigh yourself.
    • Share your weight record with your doctor. These can help your doctor see if your body is holding extra fluid.
    • Tell your doctor right away if you have gained weight quickly, or if you have gained weight as told by your doctor. Your medicines may need to be adjusted.
  • Check your blood pressure as often as told by your doctor.
    • Buy a home blood pressure cuff at your drugstore.
    • Record your blood pressure readings. Bring them with you for your clinic visits.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Ask your doctor what weight is healthy for you.
  • Think about doing therapy or being a part of a support group.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your doctor. This is important.

Contact a doctor if:

  • You have questions about your medicines.
  • You miss a dose of your medicine.

Get help right away if:

  • You have very bad chest pain, especially if the pain is crushing or pressure-like and spreads to the arms, back, neck, or jaw.
  • You have more swelling in your hands, feet, ankles, or belly (abdomen).
  • You feel sick to your stomach (nauseous).
  • You have strange sweating.
  • Your skin turns blue or pale.
  • Your shortness of breath gets worse.
  • You feel dizzy or unsteady.
  • Your vision is blurry.
  • You have a headache.
  • You cough up bloody split.
  • You cannot sleep because it is hard to breathe.
  • You start to feel a “jumping” or “fluttering” sensation (palpitations) in the chest that is unusual for you.
  • You feel like you cannot get enough air.
  • You gain weight rapidly.

These symptoms may be an emergency. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get medical help right away. Call your local emergency services (911 in the U.S.). Do not drive yourself to the hospital.


  • Pulmonary edema is unusual fluid buildup in the lungs that can make it hard to breathe.
  • This condition is an emergency.
  • Keep a record of your weight. Call your doctor if you gain weight rapidly.

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