Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound associated with labored breathing.
Wheezing occurs when a child or adult tries to breathe deeply through air passages that are narrowed or filled with mucus as a result of:
Wheezing is most common when exhaling. It is sometimes accompanied by a mild sensation of tightness in the chest. Anxiety
about not being able to breathe easily can cause muscle tension that makes matters worse.
Causes and symptoms
Wheezing is the symptom most associated with asthma
. It can be caused by:
- exposure to allergens (food, pollen, and other substances, that cause a person to have an allergic reaction)
- ice-cold drinks, or very cold air
- strenuous exercise
- weather changes
- foreign objects trapped in the airway
- cystic fibrosis, and other genetic disorders
- respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, bronchitis, congestive heart failure, and emphysema
A family physician, allergist, or pulmonary specialist takes a medical history that includes questions about allergies
, or unexplained symptoms that may be the result of allergic reactions. If the pattern of the patient's symptoms suggests the presence of allergy, skin and blood tests are performed to identify the precise nature of the problem.
A pulmonary function test
may be ordered to measure the amount of air moving through the patient's breathing passages. X rays are sometimes indicated for patients whose wheezing seems to be caused by chronic bronchitis or emphysema
In 2004, researchers in Japan discovered a new method for diagnosing asthma in infants by testing for certain antibodies in their sputum (mucus that spits up from the bronchi).
Mild wheezing may be relieved by drinking plenty of juice, water, weak tea, and broth. Ice-cold drinks should be avoided.
A vaporizer can help clear air passages. A steam tent, created by lowering the face toward a sink filled with hot water, placing a towel over the head and sink, and inhaling the steam, can do likewise.
(medications that help widen narrowed airways) may be prescribed for patients whose wheezing is the result of asthma. Newer asthma medications taken daily can help prevent asthma attacks, as can avoiding asthma and allergy triggers.
are generally used to cure acute bronchitis and other respiratory infections. Expectorants
cough-producing medications) or certain bronchodilators are prescribed to remove excess mucus from the breathing passages.
If wheezing is caused by an allergic reaction, antihistamines will probably be prescribed to neutralize body chemicals that react to the allergen.
Breathing problems can be life-threatening. Immediate medical attention is required whenever an individual:
- turns blue or gray and stops breathing
- becomes extremely short of breath, and is unable to speak
- coughs up bubbly-pink or white phlegm
- seems to be suffocating
- develops a fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher
- wheezes most of the time, and coughs up gray or greenish phlegm
positions (Bridge, Cobra, Pigeon, and Sphinx) may relieve wheezing by improving breathing control and reducing stress
. Patients whose wheezing is related to asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or a severe allergic reaction may benefit from these techniques, but must continue to have their condition monitored by a conventional physician.
Mild wheezing caused by infection or acute illness usually disappears when the underlying cause is eliminated.
Some doctors believe that childhood respiratory infections may activate parts of the immune system that prevent asthma from developing.
can eliminate wheezing. So can reducing or preventing exposure to other substances that cause the problem.
"Creola Bodies in Wheezing Infants Predict Asthma Development." Immunotherapy Weekly July 7, 2004: 10.
"WhatÆs New in: Asthma and Allergic Rhinitis." Pulse September 20, 2004: 50.
"Wheezing? Check Your Inhaler." Prevention September 2004: 34.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
breathing with wheeze
; it results from constriction or obstruction of the throat, pharynx, trachea, or bronchi. This is commonly a symptom of asthma
; in an asthmatic attack, spasm of the bronchi occurs, and air can be forced only with difficulty into and out of the lungs through the trachea. Another cause of wheezing is congestive heart failure
, in which breathing is difficult, the lips often have a bluish color, and the veins in the neck are distended. When wheezing is persistent and is not asthmatic, the cause may be an obstruction in the breathing passages, such as a foreign body or tumor.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.
Patient discussion about wheezing
Q. Differentiate Wheezing & Asthma My sister who is 29 years old is suffering from wheezing for the past 7 years. Its not a genetic problem. Some times she uses inhaler for temporary recovery. She tried English medicine, homeo and other treatments. Is it an Asthma? I find very difficult in seeing her struggle when she find hard to breathe. Please help to make her free out of this struggle.
A. i see what scares you...it's frustrating to see your loved ones suffer and you cannot help. if she is has an inhaler- that mean she has been to the Dr. and he prescribed her some kind of medicine. without giving a diagnose first...?
Q. Help her to breathe. My sixteen year old cousin (girl) who is wondering if she is suffering from asthma, anxiety or both. She is thin, healthy girl and have been very worried She have asthma and have been thinking about it constantly. When she exercise, she get more out of breath, more worn out, and her heart beats faster than other people. Sometimes her chest hurts, but people tell me that is from my chest muscles being worked. She get a little dizzy also. When she go to bed at night sometimes it seems hard to breathe. She can take a deep breath and everything but it seems hard or something. I know there isn't anything wrong with my heart because she had an EKG done recently and chest x-rays. That was fine. When it is hot humid and muggy outside she find it hard to breath. Do you think she have asthma. She don't have any coughing or any known wheezing. Could thinking about every breath she take seem like she have asthma? She really want to know and me too, what is going on! Please help her to breathe!!!!
A. PS--alcohol and cigarettes can cause this problem to(drugs)mrfoot56.More discussions about wheezing
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