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happens when the pleura becomes irritated or swollen. The pleura are 2 thin layers of tissue that surround your lungs and line the inside of your chest cavity. There is a small amount of fluid between the pleura that helps the layers move easily when you breathe. When the pleura is irritated or swollen, the layers rub together as you breathe.

The Lungs

Signs and symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Sharp, stabbing pain in your side or lower part of your chest
  • Pain that gets worse when you cough, sneeze, or take a breath in
  • Pain in your shoulder or abdomen
  • Pain when your rib area is touched
  • Fever or dry cough

Call 911 if:

  • You have sudden, intense chest pain that feels different from your symptoms.
  • You are breathing fast, feel confused, or feel like you are going to faint.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You cough up yellow, green, gray, or bloody mucus.
  • You feel more short of breath than usual.
  • Your lips or fingernails turn dusky or blue.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your pain gets worse, even after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
  • You have a fever.

Treatment for pleurisy

depends on the cause of your pleurisy and how severe your symptoms are. You may need medicines to treat a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection. You may need medicine to treat your pain and swelling of the pleura. You may need other treatments if there is increased fluid in the pleura.


  • Splint your pain when coughing. Hold a pillow or folded blanket tightly over your chest when you cough or take a deep breath.
  • Find a comfortable position that allows you to decrease pain and breathe easier. You may find it comfortable to lie on your the side that has pleurisy. Change your position frequently to prevent complications, such as worsening pneumonia or lung collapse.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.


  • Get early treatment for conditions that cause pleurisy.
  • Get vaccinated. Ask your healthcare provider if you should get a flu and pneumonia vaccine. These vaccines may prevent infections that cause pleurisy.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Pleurisy (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes