Outline of chest showing the heart's placement behind the ribs and the pericardium

Pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium, the thin sac (membrane) that surrounds the heart.

The pericardium holds the heart in place and helps it work properly. There is a small amount of fluid between the inner and outer layers of the pericardium. This fluid keeps the layers from rubbing as the heart moves to pump blood. Pericarditis may last for 2 to 6 weeks.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home:

  • It’s important to rest until you feel better. Don’t do any strenuous activity during this time.

  • You may use ibuprofen or naproxen to control pain, unless another medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding. Acetaminophen may not help this type of pain as much as ibuprofen or naproxen.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • A change in the type of pain. This means if it feels different, becomes more severe, lasts longer, or starts to spread into your shoulder, arm, neck, jaw, or back.

  • Shortness of breath or more pain with breathing

  • Weakness, dizziness, or fainting

  • Cough with dark-colored phlegm (sputum) or blood

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Swelling in a leg

  • Rapid pulse rate that does not go away with rest

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