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, making 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 Internet programs.

    • Ask your healthcare provider about medications or other methods 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, especially 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 a pneumonia vaccine.

    • Avoid crowds, especially in the winter, 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 rehabilitation (rehab) program. Pulmonary rehab helps improve muscle strength, ability to exercise and do daily tasks. 

      • Healthy eating means a lot of fruit and vegetables, 100% whole grain products, lean meats and fish, and low-fat dairy products, like yogurt and cheeses.

      • Most people need 8 hours of sleep every night.

  • Take your medications exactly as directed. Don’t skip doses.

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

  • Try to stay away from those things that may affect your breathing, such as 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 nurse or provider to show you pursed-lip breathing to help decrease shortness of breath.


Make all follow-up appointments as directed by our staff.

 When to Call Your Health Care Provider

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

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing, especially if you have trouble catching your breath or talking

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

  • Fever or chills

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

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

  • Swollen ankles

  • Trouble doing your usual activities