Discharge Instructions for Emphysema

You have been diagnosed with emphysema. This is a lung disease that limits the flow of air in and out of your lungs. This makes breathing harder. Emphysema is most often caused by heavy, long-time cigarette smoking.

Home care

  • If you smoke, quit.

    • Join a stop-smoking program. There are even telephone, text message, and online programs.

    • Ask your healthcare provider about medicines or other ways to help you quit.

    • Ask family members to quit smoking as well.

    • Don’t allow smoking in your home, in your car, or around you. This is very important if oxygen is in use.

  • Protect yourself from infection.

    • Wash your hands often. Keep your hands away from your face. Most germs are spread from your hands to your mouth.

    • Ask your provider about a yearly flu shot and pneumonia vaccines.

    • Stay away from crowds, especially in the winter. This is when more people have colds and flu.

    • To stay healthy, exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and get enough sleep. You should:

      • Try to exercise at least 30 minutes on most days. Ask your healthcare provider about a pulmonary rehab program. This helps improve your muscle strength. It also helps your ability to exercise and do daily tasks. 

      • Eat healthy. This means eating lots of fruit and vegetables, 100% whole-grain products, and lean meats and fish. You should also have low-fat dairy products such as yogurt and cheeses.

      • Try to get 8 hours of sleep every night.

  • Take your medicines just as directed. Don’t skip doses.

  • If you use oxygen, use it correctly. That means the amount you use and the length of time you use it.

  • Try to stay away from things that may affect your breathing. This includes cold weather, high humidity, smoke, air pollution, dust, and allergens.

  • Unless your provider has told you otherwise, drink at least 8 glasses of fluid every day to keep mucus thin. Ask about other things that can help.

  • Ask your provider to show you pursed-lip breathing to help decrease shortness of breath.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

 When to call your healthcare provider

Call your provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Wheezing or coughing

  • Increased mucus or yellow, green, bloody, or smelly mucus

  • Fever or chills

  • Tightness in your chest that does not go away with your normal medicines

  • An irregular heartbeat or a feeling that your heart is beating very fast

  • Swollen ankles

  • Trouble doing your normal activities

Call 911

Call 911 if you have trouble catching your breath or talking

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