When we think of wheezing we generally associate it with a sickness or a sound made by a smoker. Although wheezing can occur episodically, the underlying condition that results in wheezing can be chronic. Therefore, it is important to speak with your doctor if you or your child develops a wheeze that continues for more than a few days. Most of the time wheezing will resolve once the initial culprit has been addressed; however, the underlying issue may be more complex and must be diagnosed in order to receive proper treatment.

What Is Wheezing?

Wheezing can be described as a whistling sound that takes place when air travels through the bronchial tubes located in the chest. While there is no mistaking the sound of wheezing, it may be more pronounced as a person exhales or breathes out. However, a high-pitched wheeze may also be heard upon inhalation, or when a person breathes in. Wheezing should not be taken lightly; it is a sign that someone is having difficulty breathing. And while wheezing is general associated with sickness, it could be indicative of blockage, which requires immediate medical attention.

What Causes Wheezing?

Wheezing can be triggered by a number of internal and external stimuli. Asthma is one of the most common causes of wheezing. If you are the parent of an asthmatic child, then you know firsthand that the sound of wheezing can cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand up. Other causes of wheezing may include the following:

Inhalation of foreign object – We’re not talking about a Lego or some other small toy (although with children, and even some grown-ups, anything is possible); inhalation in this context could mean something as simple as dust or pollen.


Emphysema (COPD) – Wheezing may be more pronounced if a respiratory infection is present in patient.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) – Believe it or not, some people who suffer with reflux have reported wheezing as a symptom.

Heart failure

Insect sting – Wheezing would typically occur as the result of an allergic reaction to the sting or bite of an insect.

Medications – Side effects to certain medications, aspirin being the most common, may include wheezing.


Smoking – Of all the triggers on this list, smoking is the one cause of wheezing that you can control. If you smoke, quit. Now. Today. Right now! If you cannot do it today, make a plan, speak with your doctor about smoking cessation, and quit! Second hand smoke can affect the people around you and also cause such a reaction as wheezing. Keep children away from second-hand smoke. Do not allow people to smoke in your home, in your car, or anywhere near you.

Viral infection – Croup is a common illness that affects young children and babies. If your baby is wheezing, turn on the hot water in the shower, close the door and allow time for steam to produce. This moist air should help open baby’s lungs. Additionally, you can place the child in front of an open freezer or outside in the cool night air to open his or her lungs.

How To Treat Wheezing

If you have been prescribed medication related to your wheezing, be sure to take as directed.

As mentioned above, symptoms may be relieved by moist, heated air, or by running a humidifier.

Wheezing typically does not occur for no reason; therefore it is very important that you schedule an appointment with your physician if you develop a wheeze so that the underlying ailment may be diagnosed. Wheezing should resolve once the root has been identified and treated. In order to diagnose the reason for wheezing, your doctor will perform a physical examination. Physical examination will include listening to the lungs. If the wheezing episode did not result from an allergic reaction to food, insect bites or environmental factors, then your doctor may recommend certain diagnostic testing such as x-rays and blood work in order to gain a larger picture of your overall health. He will also likely take a medical history, and ask several questions in order to better understand the circumstances surrounding the onset of the wheeze. He will probably ask when the wheezing began, whether it is worse during certain times of the day, or if certain factors make it better or worse. Be sure to inform your doctor of all medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements you may currently be taking in order to rule out this common cause.

Seek immediate emergency attention if a wheeze is accompanied by fever, coughing, swelling of the face, lips, or tongue, loss of voice or consciousness, as these are obviously much more serious factors that require urgent medical care.

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