Heart Failure: When to Call for Help

Heart Failure: When to Call for Help

When you have heart failure, it is important to know when to call for help. Treatment will be needed to stop symptoms from getting worse. Early care can help stop major problems and decrease recovery time.

Read on to learn when to call your care team and when to call for emergency help. The earlier you call, the more likely that the help you get can result in better outcomes.

Signs That You Need to Call Your Care Team

Call your care team right away if you have:

  • A dry hacking cough
  • Problems breathing when you are active
  • More swelling in your legs, feet, and ankles
  • Gained more than 2-3 pounds in 24 hours or 5 pounds in a week
  • Pain or swelling in your belly
  • Problems sleeping

These signs may mean that your medicines need to be changed to ones that are more helpful for you. The only way this can happen is if you call your care team.

Signs That You Need to Call for Emergency Help

Call for emergency care right away if you have:

  • A dry, hacking cough that is happening more often
  • Problems breathing when you are at rest
  • More pain or swelling in your legs, feet, and ankles
  • Gained more than 2-3 pounds in 24 hours or 5 pounds in a week
  • Lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Feelings of sadness or depression
  • Lack of hunger
  • Worsening sleep problems
  • Problems lying flat

You need medical care right way if you have these signs.

Stay in Touch with Your Care Team

Your goal should be to lower the risk of more damage. The earlier you tell your care team about any problems you are having, the more they can work with you to prevent future damage.


American Heart Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada


Heart failure with reduced ejection fraction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname.... Updated May 16, 2019. Accessed May 21, 2019.
Self-check plan for heart failure management. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/-/media/files/health-topics/heart-failure/self-check-plan-for-hf-management-. Accessed May 21, 2019.
Last reviewed May 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 11/5/2019

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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