Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound made while breathing. Most commonly wheezing occurs during breathing out (expiration), but it can sometimes be related to breathing in (inspiration).
Wheezing results from a narrowing of the airways and typically indicates some difficulty breathing. The narrowing of the airways can be caused by inflammation from asthma, an infection, an allergic reaction, or by a physical obstruction, such as a tumor or a foreign object that's been inhaled.
Talk to your doctor if wheezing is mild and is happening for the first time, it's a recurrent, unexplained problem, or it's accompanied by:
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Briefly bluish skin color
Seek emergency care if wheezing:
- Begins suddenly after being stung by a bee, taking medication or eating an allergy-causing food
- Is accompanied by severe difficulty breathing or bluish skin color
- Occurs after choking on a small object or food
In some cases, wheezing can be relieved by certain medications or use of an inhaler. In others, you might need treatment such as having a breathing tube put down your throat.
To ease wheezing, try these tips:
- Moisturize the air. Use a humidifier, take a steamy shower or sit in the bathroom with the door closed while running a hot shower. Moist air might help relieve mild wheezing in some instances.
- Drink fluids. Warm liquids can relax the airway and loosen up sticky mucus in your throat.
- Avoid tobacco smoke. Active or passive smoking can worsen a cough.
- Take all prescribed medications. Follow the doctor's instructions.
Apr. 10, 2014
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