Home treatment plan for angina

Angina is a type of chest pain that occurs when there is not enough blood flow to the heart muscle. This is often a result of narrowed blood vessels, usually caused by hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). If you have angina, you and your health professional may have developed a plan for you to use to treat your angina at home. When angina starts, follow that plan. If you have any questions about your home treatment plan, call your health professional.

Many health professionals prescribe nitroglycerin to relieve the pain of angina. The usual method for taking nitroglycerin tablets is explained below. If your health professional has prescribed and instructed you to use nitroglycerin spray or his or her instructions differ from those below, follow the guidelines your health professional has given you.

If you are taking nitroglycerin sublingual tablets or spray for acute chest pain, you should carry the tablets and spray with you at all times. Sit down when an acute attack occurs. The medication starts to work within 2 minutes and goes on working for up to 30 minutes.

Nitroglycerin tablets

  1. Sit down before taking nitroglycerin because this medication can lower your blood pressure and make you feel dizzy or lightheaded.
  2. Place one tablet under your tongue (sublingual), let it dissolve, and rest for 5 minutes. If after 5 minutes the pain does not improve or gets worse, call 911 or other emergency services immediately.
  3. After calling 911, continue to stay on the phone with the emergency operator; he or she will give you further instructions.

Nitroglycerin tablets should be replaced every 3 to 6 months. Old tablets may not work effectively. Store nitroglycerin in a brown or opaque airtight, glass container that you cannot see through and keep away from heat or moisture.

Nitroglycerin sprays

  1. Do not shake the spray container. Hold it upright with the opening of the spray mechanism as close as possible to your opened mouth.
  2. Press the spray mechanism with your forefinger to release the spray. Spray the nitroglycerin onto or under your tongue and close your mouth immediately. Do not inhale or swallow the spray.
  3. Rest for 3 to 5 minutes. If after to 3 to 5 minutes the pain does not improve or gets worse, call 911 or other emergency services immediately.
  4. After calling 911, continue to stay on the phone with the emergency operator; he or she will give you further instructions.

A nitroglycerin spray may last up to 2 years before it expires. Replace nitroglycerin spray according to the expiration date on the bottle. Old spray may not work effectively. Store your spray in the original container and keep it away from heat or moisture.

Last Updated: April 24, 2009

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