Wheezing

Definition

Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound during breathing. It occurs when air moves through narrowed breathing tubes.

Alternative Names

Sibilant rhonchi

Considerations

Wheezing is a sign that a person may be having breathing problems. The sound of wheezing is most obvious when breathing out (exhaling), but may be heard when taking a breath (inhaling).

Wheezing most often comes from the small breathing tubes (bronchial tubes) deep in the chest, but it may be due to a blockage in larger airways or in persons with certain vocal cord problems.

Causes

Home Care

Always take all of your medications as directed.

Sitting in an area where there is moist, heated air may help relieve some symptoms. This can be done by running a hot shower or using a vaporizer.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

If wheezing is severe or occurs with severe shortness of breath, you may have to go directly to the nearest emergency department.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

The doctor or nurse will perform a physical examination and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:

The physical examination may include listening to the lung sounds (auscultation). If your child is the one with symptoms, the doctor will make sure he or she did not swallow a foreign object.

Tests that may be done include:

A hospital stay may be needed if:

References

Schatz M. Asthma in adolescents and adults. In: Bope ET, Rakel RE, Kellerman R, eds. Conn’s Current Therapy 2012. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:section 6.

Szefler SJ. Advances in pediatric asthma in 2009: gaining control of childhood asthma. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 Jan;125(1):69-78.