Treatment for Pulmonary Edema

  • Call an ambulance or go to the nearest emergency room immediately. While waiting for an ambulance, sit upright. If possible, sit facing backward on an armless chair, with your raised arms resting on the chair back, to ease breathing.
  • Pure oxygen is administered through a face mask or nasal tube or by an assisted positive pressure ventilator, which mechanically aids breathing.
  • Morphine is given to relieve anxiety and to decrease the blood flow through the lungs.
  • Diuretics, such as furosemide, bumetanide, or ethacrynic acid, are administered to promote excretion of excess fluids.
  • Sodium nitroprusside or digoxin may be prescribed to dilate the arteries and strengthen the contractions of the heart muscle.
  • Inhaled bronchodilating drugs, such as aminophylline, may be administered to relax constricted bronchial passages.
  • It is imperative to return to a lower altitude immediately to obtain emergency medical care for high-altitude pulmonary edema. If possible, ask a ranger to call a helicopter if someone becomes too disabled to walk.

When to Call a Doctor

  • EMERGENCY Call an ambulance immediately if you develop symptoms of pulmonary edema.
  • EMERGENCY Descend immediately to a lower altitude and call for emergency medical treatment if you develop high-altitude pulmonary edema.


Johns Hopkins Symptoms and Remedies: The Complete Home Medical Reference

Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D., Medical Editor

Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 29 Aug 2011

Last Modified: 01 Jul 2013