Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound made while breathing, which is a result of the inflammation and narrowing of the airway in any location, from your throat out into your lungs. Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are the most common causes of recurrent wheezing since both cause narrowing and spasms (bronchospasms) in the small airways of your lungs.

Wheezing can also be cause by the following conditions:

  • Allergies
  • Anaphylaxis (A Severe Allergic Reaction, Such As To An Insect Bite Or Medication)
  • Bronchiectasis (A Chronic Lung Condition In Which Abnormal Widening Of Bronchial Tubes Inhibits Mucus Clearing)
  • Bronchiolitis (Especially In Young Children)
  • Bronchitis
  • Childhood Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • Epiglottitis (Swelling Of The “Lid” Of Your Windpipe)
  • Foreign Object Inhaled
  • GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
  • Heart Failure
  • Lung Cancer
  • Medications (Particularly Aspirin)
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive (A Condition In Which Breathing Stops And Starts During Sleep)
  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) (Especially In Young Children)
  • Respiratory Tract Infection (Especially In Children Younger Than 2)
  • Smoking
  • Vocal Cord Dysfunction (A Condition That Affects Vocal Cord Movement)

Mild wheezing that occurs along with symptoms of a cold or upper respiratory infection (URI) don’t usually need treatment.

See a doctor if you develop wheezing that is unexplained, recurrent, or is accompanied by any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Briefly bluish skin color

Seek emergency care if wheezing:

  • Begins suddenly after being stung by a bee, taking medication or eating an allergy-causing food
  • Is accompanied by severe difficulty breathing or bluish skin color
  • Occurs after choking on a small object or food

In some cases, wheezing can be relieved by certain medications or use of an inhaler. In others, you might need emergency treatment.

To ease mild wheezing related to a cold or URI, try doing the following:

  • Moisturize the air. Use a humidifier, take a steamy shower or sit in the bathroom with the door closed while running a hot shower. Moist air might help relieve mild wheezing in some instances.
  • Drink fluids. Warm liquids can relax the airway and loosen up sticky mucus in your throat.
  • Avoid tobacco smoke. Active or passive smoking can worsen wheezing.
  • Take all prescribed medications. Follow the doctor’s instructions.

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