Caring for yourself at home, especially any wound you had during surgery, is an important part of your recovery after heart surgery. Your heart surgery may have been performed through an incision in your breastbone or sternum, or you may have an incision on the side of your chest.\nCaring for Yourself After Incisions\nTo care for yourself after either of these types of incisions, please follow these steps:\n\nBreathe in through your nose as you raise your arms during activity.\nBreathe out through your mouth as you lower your arms. Never hold your breath.\nYou may raise your arms over your head to brush or shampoo your hair. Be careful when reaching. The breastbone and the muscles around it may be very sore for a while.\nDo not lift anything heavier than 5 pounds for four weeks after surgery.\nYou should not push or pull with your arms, especially when rising from a chair or bed.\nAssistive devices, such as canes or walkers, should be used only for balance. Do not place your full weight on any of these devices until the incision is fully healed (ten to twelve weeks).\n\nKeeping the Incision Clean and Dry\nIt is very important to keep your incision clean and dry. Follow these guidelines:\n\nShower daily. Do not take a tub bath for four weeks or until your doctor says you may.\nWash your incisions with an antimicrobial soap and water. Always use a clean washcloth.\nDo not put any creams, lotions, or antibiotic ointments on the incisions.\nKeep your legs raised when sitting for more than 15 minutes.\nDo not wear tight clothing that may rub against your incisions.\n\nNormal Symptoms\nThe following symptoms are normal and should clear up in the first two to three weeks:\n\nBlack and blue skin around the incisions or redness along the incision edges.\nTenderness, swelling, numbness, or itching along the incision.\nSmall amount of clear or pinkish drainage from the incision.\n\nAbnormal Symptoms\n\nIf you have any of the following symptoms, call your surgeon right away:\n\nRedness that spreads out more than one inch from the incision edges.\nIncreased warmth in the skin around the incision.\nLarge amount of clear or pinkish drainage.\nSudden increased amount of drainage.\nWhite, yellow, or green drainage with odor, which may be foul or sweet, coming from the incision.\nIncrease of swelling, tightness, or pain around the incision.\nFever higher than 101 \u02daF (38.3 \u02daC), chills, or temperature of 99 \u02daF (37.2 \u02daC) to 100.9 \u02daF (38.27 \u02daC) for more than three days.\n\nTo learn more about heart surgery at UPMC, check out our What to Expect: Heart Surgery booklet.