Understanding Wheezing -- Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on November 03, 2021

What Are the Symptoms of Wheezing?

The symptoms of wheezing include a musical or whistling sound and labored breathing, particularly when exhaling; sometimes they're accompanied by a feeling of tightening in the chest. You can hear wheezing more loudly if you plug your ears and exhale rapidly, or by using a stethoscope to listen to breathing over the lungs.

Call Your Doctor About Wheezing If:

  • You are wheezing and do not have a history of asthma or an asthma action plan for how to treat any wheezing.
  • Wheezing is accompanied by a fever of 101° or above; you may have a respiratory infection such as acute bronchitis, sinusitis, or pneumonia.
  • Your cough worsens, and you produce more, thicker or yellow, green, or blood-tinged mucus; you may need antibiotics for bronchitis or pneumonia.   


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Get emergency medical help immediately (Call 911) if:

  • You have trouble breathing or you feel that you are suffocating; this can be a sign of a severe asthma episode or an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
  • You begin wheezing suddenly and cough up frothy pink or white phlegm; this may be a sign of heart failure.
  • You cough up bloody phlegm or you have a sharp, localized chest pain (pleurisy); this could be a sign of pulmonary embolism.
  • You also have hives or swelling in the face, mouth or neck.
  • You have a bluish tint to your skin, along with confusion, lightheadedness, or passing out.


Show Sources


American Lung Association: "Diseases A-Z." 

MedlinePlus: "Wheezing."

Albert, RH.  American Family Physician, December 01, 2010.

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