Skip to content

Lung Disease & Respiratory 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

Asthma Treatments for Children

Based on your child's history and the severity of asthma, his or her doctor will develop a care plan, called an "asthma action plan." The asthma action plan describes when and how your child should use asthma medications, what to do when asthma gets worse, and when to seek emergency care for your child. Make sure you understand this plan and ask your child's doctor any questions you may have. Your child's asthma action plan is important to successfully controlling his or her asthma. Keep it handy...

Read the Asthma Treatments for Children 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:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Obstruction from a foreign body which has been inhaled (such as a coin)
  • A tumor in the lungs
  • Congestive heart failure (usually in older adults)

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Luqman Seidu, MD on March 16, 2014

Today on WebMD

man coughing
You may not even know you have it.
blood clot
Signs of this potentially fatal complication.
 
man coughing
When a cold becomes bronchitis.
human lungs
Causes behind painful breathing, fluid buildup.
 

chest x-ray
Slideshow
Bronchitis Overview
SLIDESHOW
 
Copd Myth Fact Quiz
QUIZ
Energy Boosting Foods
SLIDESHOW
 

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

lungs
Article
smokestacks
Article
 
woman coughing
Article
Lung xray and caduceus
Article