Possible Causes Of Wheezing And Tips For Relief

By Tiffany Tseng. May 7th 2016

If you are having trouble breathing, what can make your condition even more unbearable is if you start wheezing as well. SymptomFind.com has compiled a list of possible causes of wheezing, and tips to alleviate the condition.

What Is Wheezing?

Wheezing is characterized by a strange, high-pitched, whistle-like noise associated with efforts to breathe. It is usually more prominent when exhaling; the noise is a result from narrowed breathing airways. Often times, individuals who wheeze may be accompanied by other respiratory symptoms, such as coughing or shortness of breath. It is also possible that the affected individual does not realize he or she is wheezing until other people points it out. Wheezing children and infants usually grow out of it as their respiratory systems develops more and grows stronger over time.

Causes Of Wheezing

Often times, wheezing is associated with obstruction and problems in the smaller bronchioles located deep inside the lung rather than larger airways, though the latter is possible as well. It is commonly associated with asthma, which is characterized by thickening of the lining of the airways and development of thick mucus. Asthma attacks cannot be cured, but the symptoms (including wheezing) can be treated or alleviated. See a doctor today to help manage the signs of asthma and eliminate wheezing.

For older adults, wheezing can also be a symptom or an indicator of other, more serious underlying medical problems, mostly that of a respiratory nature. For example, pulmonary edema, characterized as the accumulation of fluid in the lungs, has wheezing as one of its symptoms. The most common, non-respiratory related condition that lists wheezing as a symptom is perhaps heart failure. Hence, if you suspect wheezing later on in life, and you did not have it before, it is highly recommended that you seek medical attention to rule out any possible life threatening conditions.

Another common cause for wheezing may be changes to fetal development. Studies have shown that pregnant women who had exposure to Bisphenol A (better known as BPA), a chemical found in many plastic consumer products, gave birth to wheezing infants. However, as the children aged, the wheezing also disappeared. This may be linked to studies showing that mice that were exposed to BPA later developed asthma in life, although further research needs to be conducted.

Other Possible Causes Of Wheezing

Other possible causes of wheezing can include and are not limited to:

  • Bronchiectasis (a chronic lung condition where abnormal widening of bronchial tubes inhibits mucus clearing)
  • Foreign object inhaled (which literally creates blockage and wheezing)
  • Bronchiolitis (especially in young children)
  • Childhood asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Emphysema (when the air sacs in lungs start to degrade)
  • Respiratory tract infection (especially in children younger than 2)
  • Epiglottitis (characterized by swelling of the top of the windpipe)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, characterized by acid reflux)
  • Anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction that can become life threatening)
  • Lung cancer (usually associated with smoking)
  • Certain medications
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (which can cause an individual to wake up in the middle of sleep gasping for air)
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (especially in young children)
  • Smoking
  • Dysfunctions or abnormalities in vocal cords

Depending on the cause of wheezing, preventative methods and treatment will vary in response to the underlying condition. Hence, it is important to see a doctor for correct diagnosis before proceeding with any self-medication, which may further worsen the wheezing.

Tips For Relief

Sometimes, simple home remedies can greatly soothe wheezing. The most effective method is probably breathing in warm, moist air to ease the airways and potentially clear them. Vaporizers are an easy way to help peacefully sleep through the night while breathing in moisturized air. Otherwise, an easy DIY method is to sit in a steamy bathroom or shower and breathe in the steam. For those who wheeze due to allergies or asthma, be sure to follow medications as prescribed for maximum efficiency.

When To See A Doctor

Since wheezing may limit the intake of oxygen in the body, it is imperative to seek emergency care if there is difficulty breathing, the skin starts to turn bluish (cyanosis), or if the individual’s psychological state becomes altered. Similarly, seek emergency care if the wheezing is accompanied by severe allergic reactions, such as hives and swelling in the face or throat.

If the wheezing does not become better over time, gets worse, or if it starts to degrade one’s quality of life, it is definitely time to see a doctor. It is always better to be safe than sorry just in case the wheezing is a symptom of a more serious health condition.


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