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Pleurisy 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.


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.


You may receive any of the following:

  • Cough medicine helps decrease your urge to cough. A cough suppressant may help if a dry cough is causing you pain.
  • Antibiotics may treat pleurisy caused by a bacteria.
  • Steroids may be given to decrease inflammation.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given to decrease severe pain if other pain medicines do not work. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for more medicine.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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


  • 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.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.