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Overview of Wheezing: Meaning, symptoms, causes & treatment

Team AckoJan 17, 2024

Wheezing is a shrill whistling sound that usually emanates when air passes through restricted or narrowed airways while breathing. Wheezing (WHZ) can be a symptom of respiratory disorders, including asthma, but it can also be an indication of other underlying medical issues. Read ahead to get an overview of this condition along with its symptoms, causes, and treatment.




What causes Wheezing?

The narrowing or constriction of the airways in the lungs is the main cause of Wheezing. This narrowing can occur for a variety of reasons, including the following.

  • Allergic reactions to environmental triggers such as pollen, dust mites, or animal dander can cause inflammation and narrowing of the airways, leading to WHZ.

  • Asthma usually leads to inflammation and narrowing of the air passages in the lungs. This narrowing can cause WHZ, shortness of breath, and other respiratory symptoms.

  • Common colds, flu, bronchitis, or pneumonia can cause inflammation and swelling of the airways.

  • Some people may experience WHZ during or after physical activity or exercise, particularly if they have exercise-induced asthma.

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a respiratory condition that causes a gradual narrowing of the airways and damage to the lung tissue can cause WHZ. Bronchiectasis is a condition in which the airways in the lungs become damaged and widened, leading to chronic infections and inflammation that can cause WHZ.

Recommendation: The causes can differ from person to person; it's best to consult your healthcare provider to understand the exact cause.

What are the symptoms associated with Wheezing?

Wheezing is often accompanied by other respiratory symptoms, which may vary depending on the underlying cause. Some of the most common symptoms associated with WHZ include the following.

  1. Shortness of breath: One of the most common symptoms of WHZ is a feeling of difficulty breathing or a sense of being unable to catch one's breath. Shortness of breath can be a sign of a severe respiratory condition and may be accompanied by chest tightness or discomfort.

  2. Rapid breathing: Wheezing may cause a person to breathe faster than usual, which can be a sign of respiratory distress. Rapid breathing may also cause a feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness.

  3. Coughing: People with WHZ may experience a persistent cough, which can be worse at night or in the early morning. The cough may be dry or accompanied by phlegm.

  4. Chest tightness: WHZ can cause a feeling of pressure or constriction in the chest. This symptom can be distressing and may make it difficult to breathe deeply or fully.

  5. Fatigue: People with WHZ may experience fatigue or exhaustion, particularly if their respiratory symptoms are severe. Fatigue may be a sign of low oxygen levels in the blood or a result of the body working harder than usual to breathe.

  6. Rapid heart rate: WHZ can cause the heart to beat faster than normal.

  7. Difficulty exercising: Wheezing may make it difficult to engage in physical activity or exercise. This symptom can be particularly problematic for people who enjoy an active lifestyle or who rely on physical activity to manage their overall health.

Wheezing can sometimes lead to complications, especially if it is severe or left untreated. Complications can include respiratory failure, pneumonia, and other respiratory infections. In severe cases, WHZ can also lead to a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis.

What are the types of Wheezing?

There are two main types of Wheezing: Expiratory and Inspiratory. Expiratory WHZ occurs during exhalation, while Inspiratory WHZ occurs during inhalation.

The type of Wheezing can sometimes provide clues to the underlying cause of the condition. WHZ can be diagnosed through a physical exam, medical history, and diagnostic tests such as lung function tests, blood tests, and chest x-rays. 

Ways to manage Wheezing at home

If you experience Wheezing, there are several steps you can take at home to manage your symptoms and improve your overall respiratory health. These steps include the following.

  • Monitor your symptoms: Keep track of your Wheezing symptoms and any triggers that may worsen your symptoms. This information can help you and your healthcare provider develop an effective treatment plan.

  • Identify and avoid triggers: If you have a respiratory condition such as asthma or allergies, it is important to identify and avoid triggers that can worsen your symptoms. Common triggers include tobacco smoke, air pollution, pet dander, dust mites, and certain foods or medications.

  • Try breathing exercises: Deep breathing exercises, yoga, or deep meditation can help reduce stress and improve respiratory function.

  • Practice good hygiene: Washing hands regularly, especially during cold and flu season, helps reduce your risk of respiratory infections that can cause WHZ.

  • Use over-the-counter medications: Over-the-counter medications such as bronchodilators and expectorants can help relieve WHZ symptoms by opening up the airways and loosening mucus. Talk to your healthcare provider before using any new medications.

Recommendation: Consult your doctor immediately if the WHZ persists or worsens, despite the home remedies.

Treatment of Wheezing

Treatment of Wheezing aims to relieve symptoms, improve lung function, and prevent future episodes. Some common treatments include the following. 

  • Anti-allergy medications: Allergy medications such as antihistamines and nasal corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation and swelling in the airways caused by allergic reactions, which can help relieve Wheezing.

  • Bronchodilators: This helps relax the muscles around the airways, allowing them to open up and improve airflow. Bronchodilators can be administered through inhalers, nebulizers, or oral tablets.

  • Inhaled corticosteroids: Inhaled corticosteroids are medications that help reduce inflammation in the airways, which can help relieve Wheezing and prevent future flare-ups.

  • Antibiotics: If Wheezing is caused by a bacterial infection such as bronchitis or pneumonia, antibiotics may be prescribed to help treat the infection and relieve WHZ symptoms.

  • Oxygen therapy: If Wheezing is severe and leads to low oxygen levels in the blood, oxygen therapy may be administered to help improve breathing and prevent complications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions on Wheezing.


Can I prevent Wheezing?

Wheezing cannot be prevented, yet you can take caution to keep yourself safe. Avoiding exposure to triggers is the best way to prevent a WHZ episode. Maintaining good respiratory health, maintaining good indoor air quality, following a healthy lifestyle, and managing underlying health conditions can help you cope.

When should I seek medical attention for Wheezing?

If you experience Wheezing or other respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain, it is important to seek medical attention immediately, especially if these symptoms are severe or worsen over time.

What are the common causes of Wheezing?

Common causes of Wheezing include asthma, allergies, COPD, bronchitis, pneumonia, and viral infections such as the common cold or flu. Certain environmental factors such as air pollution or exposure to irritants can also cause WHZ.

In which season is Wheezing common?

During the fall and winter months, respiratory infections such as the flu or common cold are more common, and these infections can lead to WHZ, especially in people with underlying respiratory conditions such as asthma or COPD. Spring is a time when seasonal allergies are at their peak, and exposure to pollen, dust and other allergens can trigger or worsen WHZ in susceptible individuals.


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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