Wheezing occurs when the airways become constricted, obstructed, or irritated, resulting in a whistling or squeaking sound as a person breathes. A cold, asthma, allergies, or more serious illnesses such as chronic obstructive lung disease are all common causes (COPD).
When your airway is partially closed, your breath will produce a harsh, coarse whistling or rattling sound.
While certain wheezes are audible only with a stethoscope, they are frequently audible with the unaided ear. While wheezing is more noticeable when you exhale (breathe out), it is equally audible when you inhale (inhale).
The wheeze’s tone varies according to whether portion of the respiratory system is blocked or narrowed. The upper respiratory system narrowing may result in a hoarse wheeze. Lower obstacles may have a more musical tone, comparable to that of a wind instrument such as a clarinet.
Wheezing may be more prevalent in infants, owing to their narrower airways. Additionally, children under the age of two are susceptible to bronchiolitis, a frequent but easily curable illness. This is caused by a viral infection of the respiratory tract and inflammation. Adult smokers and those suffering from emphysema or heart disease are especially susceptible to wheezing.
Causes of Wheezing
Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are the most common causes of persistent wheezing, as both conditions produce constriction and spasms (bronchospasms) in the tiny airways of the lungs.
The most common causes of wheezing include problems with your:
- Asthma is a chronic condition that causes spasms and swelling in the bronchial tubes. Wheezing in asthma can be triggered by exposure to airborne allergens such as pollen, mold, animals, or house dust. Viral illnesses can also make asthma symptoms worse.
- Bronchitis is inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes.
- Bronchiolitis is most common in young children.
- COPD is chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, a long-term inflammation, and damage of the bronchial tube lining, most commonly from smoking cigarettes.
- Cystic fibrosis (CF). In people who have CF, thick mucus clogs the airways and makes breathing difficult.
- Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs caused by a virus or bacteria.
- Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a seasonal lung infection that can lead to bronchiolitis or pneumonia.
- Aspirating (breathing) a foreign object into the lungs.
- Vocal cord dysfunction. VCD causes your vocal cords to close instead of opening up when you breathe in and out, making it harder to get air into or out of your lungs.
The digestive tract:
- GERD. Chronic acid reflux can relax the lower esophageal valve, causing wheezing.
- Allergies are triggered by allergens such as dust mites, pollens, pets, mold spores, and foods.
- Anaphylaxis, is an acute (severe) allergic reaction caused by foods or insect stings.
- Heart failure. Cardiac asthma is from fluid in the lungs caused by left heart failure.
- Smoking increases your risk of developing COPD and emphysema. Smoking and secondhand smoke make asthma harder to control.
When To See The Doctor
Mild wheeze associated with cold or upper respiratory infection symptoms may not usually require treatment.
Consult a physician if you develop unexplained wheezing that persists (recurrent) or is accompanied by any of the following signs or symptoms:
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest tightness or chest pain.
- Rapid breathing.
- Unexplained swelling of your feet or legs.
- Loss of voice.
- Swelling of the lips or tongue.
- A bluish tinge around your skin, mouth, or nails.
Treatment of Wheezing
Anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed by your doctor can help reduce inflammation and extra mucus in your airways. They are typically inhalers but are also available as long-acting pills. Syrups are utilized with infants and young children.
Bronchodilators are a type of rapid-acting drug that is frequently used to treat wheezing and alleviate a cough. They act by relaxing the smooth muscles that encircle the airways of your lungs.
If the wheezing is caused by a chronic illness such as asthma or COPD, your doctor may recommend both anti-inflammatory and quick-acting medications.