Understanding Wheezing -- Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on February 13, 2024
2 min read

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.

  • 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.   
  • You have lost weight

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.
  • You have no improvement of symptoms after using your regular asthma medications.