Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound during breathing. It occurs when air moves through narrowed breathing tubes in the lungs.
Wheezing is a sign that a person may be having breathing problems. The sound of wheezing is most obvious when breathing out (exhaling). It may also be heard when breathing in (inhaling).
Wheezing most often comes from the small breathing tubes (bronchial tubes) deep in the lungs. But it may be due to a blockage in larger airways or in persons with certain vocal cord problems.
Causes of wheezing may include any of the following:
Take all of your medicines 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.
Call your health care provider if wheezing:
If wheezing is severe or occurs with severe shortness of breath, you should go directly to the nearest emergency department.
The provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your medical history and symptoms. Questions about your wheezing may include when it started, how long it has lasted, when it is worse, and what might have caused it.
The physical exam may include listening to the lung sounds (auscultation). If your child has the symptoms, the provider will make sure your child didn't swallow a foreign object.
Tests that may be done include:
A hospital stay may be needed if:
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.