Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound during breathing. It occurs when air moves through narrowed breathing tubes.
Wheezing is a sign that a person may be having breathing problems. The sound of wheezing is most obvious when breathing out (exhaling), but may be heard when taking a breath (inhaling).
Wheezing most often comes from the small breathing tubes (bronchial tubes) deep in the chest, but it may be due to a blockage in larger airways or in persons with certain vocal cord problems.
- Breathing a foreign object into the lungs
Bronchiectasis Bronchiolitis Bronchitis
- Emphysema (COPD), especially when a respiratory infection is present
Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Heart failure (cardiac asthma)
- Insect sting that causes an
- Medications (particularly aspirin)
- Viral infection, especially in infants younger than age 2
Always take all of your medications as directed.
Sitting in an area where there is moist, heated air may help relieve some symptoms. This can be done by running a hot shower or using a vaporizer.
Call your health care provider if
Call your health care provider if:
- Wheezing occurs for the first time
- Wheezing occurs with significant
shortness of breath, bluish skin, confusion, or mental status changes
- Wheezing keeps occurring without explanation
- Wheezing is caused by an allergic reaction to a bite or medication
If wheezing is severe or occurs with severe shortness of breath, you may have to go directly to the nearest emergency department.
What to expect at your health care provider’s office
The doctor or nurse will perform a physical examination and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:
- When did the wheezing begin?
- How long does it last?
- When and how often does it occur?
- Is it worse at night or in the early morning?
- What does the wheezing sound like?
- Does it make breathing difficult?
- What seems to cause it?
- Eating certain foods?
- Taking certain medications?
- Do any of the following things make it worse?
- Being around pollens, insects, dust, chemicals (perfumes, cosmetics)
- Being in cold air
- Sickness (such as a cold or the flu)
- Does it go away without treatment?
- What helps relieve it?
- Medications such as bronchodilators?
- Do you have any other symptoms, such as:
- Bluish color to lips or nails
Coughing Fever Loss of consciousness Loss of voice
- Panic or confusion
- Puffy, red eyes
- Stuffy nose
Swellingof the lips or tongue
- Did you have an episode of
- Did you have an insect bite?
- Do you have a history of
- What medications do you take?
- Have you been around tobacco smoke?
- Have you recently been sick?
The physical examination may include listening to the lung sounds (
Tests that may be done include:
- Blood work, possibly including arterial blood gases
- Lung function tests
A hospital stay may be needed if:
Breathing is particularly difficult
Medicines need to be given through a vein (IV)
Supplemental oxygen is required
The person needs to be closely watched by medical personnel
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