Symptom Management

Pulmonary Fibrosis Symptoms

People living with pulmonary fibrosis often experience breathlessness and cough, especially as their disease progresses. Patients may also feel fatigued, anxious, and depressed. Please talk to your doctor about these symptoms— there are treatments that might help.

Preventing Breathlessness

Low blood oxygen levels are a common cause of breathlessness in patients with pulmonary fibrosis. Your doctor may prescribe supplemental oxygen to keep your oxygen level over 90% during exertion. Some patients can feel short of breath even when their blood oxygen saturation is above 90%.

Pulmonary rehabilitation can help strengthen your muscles and make them more resistant to fatigue. This program can also teach you how to breathe better and manage your anxiety and stress so that you’ll feel less breathless.

Doctors sometimes treat severe breathlessness with drugs like morphine when a patient has advanced disease. Palliative care to manage discomfort is discussed further below.

Preventing Cough

There are many causes of the cough that can accompany pulmonary fibrosis. Talk to your doctor to see if post-nasal drip, heartburn (gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD), or another issue may be contributing to your cough.

Low oxygen levels can trigger cough in some people. People who have PF may also have an increased sensitivity to normal cough triggers like allergies and post-nasal drip.

Talk to your doctor to see if there are treatments such as cough suppressants or steroid medication that might help your cough.

Addressing Anxiety and Depression

The challenges of living with a chronic disease like pulmonary fibrosis can be overwhelming. It is not uncommon for PF patients to struggle with anxiety and depression.

Talk to your doctor. Medications are available to treat these conditions, and your physician can also refer you to a professional counselor who can help you learn coping strategies.

Support groups are a valuable source of practical information and encouragement.  Sharing your experiences with people who are also living with PF can help you feel less alone.

Palliative Care

Palliative care, also referred to as supportive care, is medical care focused on relieving and preventing symptoms that are bothersome or cause discomfort. Palliative care also helps you address advance care planning, which allows you and your loved ones to decide how you would like to be cared for as your disease progresses. The goal of palliative care is to improve your quality of life as you live with your disease. 

It is important to understand that while receiving palliative care, you can also receive “curative care”. Curative care refers to participating in research studies, being evaluated for lung transplantation, and considering new medications.  Palliative care is different from hospice care, which is treatment administered in the last months of life.

Palliative medicine is usually administered using a team approach, involving physicians, pharmacists, nurses, religious leaders, social workers, psychologists, and other health care professionals who work with you. Palliative care providers consider physical, psychosocial, and spiritual factors in their treatment approach. Palliative care is appropriate for anyone experiencing symptoms from their disease.

Educational Materials

Find reliable information and trusted resources that can help you learn about pulmonary fibrosis and live better with PF.


  • Pulmonary Fibrosis Information Guide

    Our comprehensive guide provides reliable information about pulmonary fibrosis, the diagnostic process, treatment options, and more.
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  • Oxygen Basics Booklet

    This booklet provides an in-depth overview of the the basics of supplemental oxygen, including equipment, getting started, Medicare information, and traveling.
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