Skip to content

    Asthma Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Understanding Wheezing -- the Basics

    What Is Wheezing?

    Many people with respiratory allergies know that bouts of wheezing often come with the arrival of hay fever season. Mild wheezing may also accompany respiratory infections such as acute bronchitis and may be experienced by patients in heart failure and by some with emphysema (or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD). But the characteristic whistling sound of wheezing is a primary symptom of the chronic respiratory disease asthma.

    A variety of treatments are available to help alleviate wheezing. You should be regularly monitored by a doctor if you have asthma, severe allergies, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or COPD. Evaluation by a specialist such as an allergist or pulmonologist may also be recommended in some cases.

    Recommended Related to Asthma

    Outgrowing Asthma: Is Remission Possible?

    At 14, Alyssa Flanagan’s asthma symptoms all but disappeared. Since the age of 4, she had been hospitalized a few times each year -- once in the intensive care unit - when her colds turned into coughing, wheezy pneumonias. Asthma loomed large in her life. “The simplest explanation is that I’ve outgrown it, or for some reason, there was an immune trigger that’s not present anymore,” says Flanagan, now a 30-year-old medical resident at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Flanagan says she’s aware...

    Read the Outgrowing Asthma: Is Remission Possible? article > >

    What Causes Wheezing?

    The whistling sound that characterizes wheezing occurs when air moves through airways that are narrowed, much like the way a whistle or flute makes music. In asthma, this airway narrowing is due to inflammation and spasm of the muscles in the wall of the airways.

    Wheezing is usually the result of one of the following health problems:

    • Asthma
    • Allergic reactions to pollen, chemicals, pet dander, dust, foods, or insect stings
    • Acute or chronic bronchitis, which can produce excess mucus in the respiratory tract and cause the lungs' passageways to become blocked

    Less commonly, wheezing may also be caused by these health problems:

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Luqman Seidu, MD on February 28, 2015

    When Is Your Asthma Worse?

    When Is Your Asthma Worse?

    Take the WebMD Asthma assessment to get Personalized Action Plan

    Start Now

    Today on WebMD

    Lung and bronchial tube graphic
    5 common triggers.
    group jogging in park
    Should you avoid fitness activities?
     
    asthma inhaler
    Learn about your options.
    man feeling faint
    What’s the difference?
     
    Madison Wisconsin Capitol
    Slideshow
    woman wearing cpap mask
    Article
     
    red wine pouring into glass
    Slideshow
    Woman holding inhaler
    Quiz
     
    Man outdoors coughing
    Article
    Lung and bronchial tube graphic
    Article
     
    10 Worst Asthma Cities
    Slideshow
    runner
    Article