Should I Be Worried About Occasional Wheezing?


When breathing becomes difficult, with airways inflamed or filled with mucus, air is unable to pass easily and soundlessly. The result is a whistling or high-pitched noise, wheezing. The causes can be either minor or signs of a dangerous medical condition.

Minor Wheezing

  • Any infection that causes the larynx or trachea to swell can clog your airways and result in wheezing. To determine the seriousness of occasional wheezing, note if you have additional symptoms. For example, if you have a simple cold and a hot drink or coughing tends to relieve the wheezing, it's not likely to be serious. However, if you have a fever, difficulty catching your breath or are producing yellow or greenish phlegm you may have bronchitis or pneumonia, and it's important to see your physician. visit a doctor or the hospital emergency room.

Wheezing with Asthma

  • Wheezing and other breathing problems are common conditions of asthma, in which the airways constrict and fill with mucus that hampers breathing. In asthma, you might also have coughing or feel chest tightness or short of breath. An asthma attack can be serious and, in some cases, even fatal. If you already know you have asthma, then chances are your wheezing is more than occasional, and the doctor will provide the medications to help control it.

Other Serious Conditions

  • Besides pneumonia and bronchitis, other serious conditions that produce wheezing include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); lung cancer, which also usually includes chronic coughing and hoarseness; gastroesophageal reflux disease that causes bile to return into the esophagus; and congestive heart failure. If you feel short of breath, are breathing quickly of have chest pains or other heart problems; your feet or legs swell; or the wheeze happens when you inhale (rather than when you exhale), see your doctor or call emergency services immediately. In addition, if you think a person (often a child) has inhaled something dangerous into their lungs, see a doctor immediately.

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