Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound made while you breathe. It’s
heard most clearly when you exhale, but in severe cases it can be heard when
you inhale. It’s caused by narrowed airways or inflammation.
Wheezing may be a symptom of a serious breathing problem that requires diagnosis
Asthma is the most common
cause of wheezing. However, there are many other potential causes for wheezing.
Before you can stop your wheezing, your doctor must first determine its cause.
Wheezing may also be an indication of:
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- heart failure
- lung cancer
- sleep apnea
- vocal cord dysfunction
Wheezing may be triggered by short-term illnesses or health emergencies.
- inhaling a foreign object
- reaction to smoking
- respiratory tract infection
Anaphylaxis is a medical
emergency. You should call 911 if you begin to experience dizziness, swollen
tongue or throat, or trouble breathing.
factors for wheezing
Wheezing can happen to anyone. However, there are certain risk factors that
can increase your chances of developing a wheeze. Hereditary illnesses, such as
asthma, can run in families.
Wheezing can also occur in:
- people with allergies
- people with cancer
- children in day care
- past and current smokers
Controlling risk factors, such as smoking, may help improve wheezing. Avoid
triggers, such as pollen and other allergens, if they make you wheeze. Some
factors are out of your control, so the goal is to treat your symptoms to
improve your overall quality of life.
to seek medical help
Tell your doctor when you experience wheezing for the first time. Your
doctor needs to know if you’re wheezing and having difficulty breathing, if
your skin has a bluish tinge, or if your mental state is altered, even if it
isn’t your first bout of wheezing.
Seek emergency medical care if you’re wheezing while having difficulty breathing
or experiencing hives or a swollen face or throat.
Treatment for wheezing has two goals. First, inflammation in your airways
must be controlled. Prescription anti-inflammatory medications can decrease
inflammation and excess mucus in your airways. These typically come in the form
of inhalers, but they’re also available as long-acting tablets. Syrups are used
for young children.
The second step is to open up your breathing tubes with quick-acting
medications. Bronchodilators are often used to treat wheezing and help relieve a
cough. They work by relaxing the smooth muscles that encircle your breathing
tubes. Your doctor might recommend both anti-inflammatory and quick-acting
medications if the wheezing is related to a long-term illness, such as COPD or
Home remedies may help improve wheezing in some people. For example, keeping
your home warm and humid can open up your airways and help you breathe more
easily. Sitting in a warm, steamy bathroom can sometimes help. Dry, cold
climates can worsen wheezing, especially when exercising outdoors.
Complementary medicines may also help control your wheezing. Some herbs and
supplements may improve wheezing. It’s important that you discuss any
alternative medicines with your doctor before starting them.
These remedies may help alleviate asthma-induced wheezing:
such as vitamins C and E
Because wheezing can be caused by serious underlying
conditions, it’s important to tell your doctor when you first begin to wheeze.
If you avoid treatment or fail to follow your treatment plan, your wheezing
could worsen and cause further complications, such as shortness of breath or an
altered mental state.
The outlook for people who wheeze depends on the exact cause
of their symptoms. Chronic asthma and COPD often require long-term treatment.
However, wheezing that’s associated with short-term illnesses usually disappears
when you get well. Make sure to tell your doctor if your wheezing reoccurs or
worsens. This often means that you need a more aggressive treatment plan to
In the case of some chronic illnesses, such as asthma,
wheezing can’t be prevented without medical intervention. However, taking your
prescribed medications along with recommended home remedies can improve your
symptoms. Don’t discontinue your medications without your doctor’s consent,
even if you think that your symptoms are improving. This can lead to dangerous