Contributed by: Rachana Arya
Wheezing—a whistle-like sound produced when you breathe—is a common symptom of a serious breathing problem that requires diagnosis. In this blog, we will explore wheezing from a medical standpoint.
FAQ #1: What is wheezing?
Wheezing is the high-pitched, shrill whistling sound that you hear on breathing. This rattle is often heard when your airway is partially blocked. This whistling sound happens when air moves through narrowed airways, which might be blocked because of an allergic reaction, or respiratory infections like acute bronchitis. Wheezing is also a symptom of asthma, pneumonia, heart failure and more medical conditions.
FAQ #2: Is slight wheezing normal?
Wheezing may be a normal healthy response to an unhealthy environment. However, wheezing may also be an indication of asthma or various respiratory disorders that cause tightening in the throat.
FAQ #3: Is wheezing serious?
While wheezing itself isn’t life-threatening, it can be a symptom of conditions that are life-threatening.
FAQ #4: Should I worry about wheezing?
Mild wheezing that occurs along with symptoms of a cold or upper respiratory infection (URI), does not always need treatment. See a doctor if you develop wheezing that is unexplained or keeps coming back (recurrent).
FAQ #5: What is the main cause of wheezing?
Wheezing is marked by inflammation and narrowing of the airway from your throat out into your lungs. The most common causes of recurrent wheezing are health conditions such as:
- Cystic fibrosis
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Allergic reactions to pollen, dust etc.
- Obstruction of an airway
- Lung cancer
- Congestive heart failure
- Smoking or breathing in smoke
- Respiratory syncytial virus
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Vocal cord problems
FAQ #6: What does wheezing feel like?
The manifestation of wheezing includes a musical or whistling sound and laboured breathing, particularly when exhaling; sometimes they’re accompanied by a feeling of tightening in the chest.
FAQ #7: How can you tell if the wheezing originates from the lungs or throat?
If you’re wheezing when you inhale or exhale—although it’s most common during exhalations, you could have a more severe breathing issue. To diagnose the type of wheezing, your doctor will use a stethoscope to hear if the high-pitched whistling sound produced during breathing, is loudest over your lungs or throat.
FAQ #8: What are some self-care remedies to lessen wheezing?
There are several ways to stop wheezing at home by using simple interventions like:
- Keeping the air moist using a humidifier
- Drinking something warm
- Avoiding smoking
- Doing breathing exercises
FAQ #9: When is it important to consult a specialist doctor?
Mild wheezing can happen to anyone and should go away when the underlying illness does. But it is important that you should see a doctor if you have:
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Skin that turns blue
FAQ #10: Can honey stop wheezing?
Researchers suggest taking 2 teaspoons of honey at bedtime is most helpful for a form of nighttime asthma, called nocturnal asthma. The symptoms of this condition can cause coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness and can make sleep impossible.
FAQ #11: Why do I get wheezy at night?
Waking up in the middle of a coughing fit or because you feel like you’re breathing through a straw is a common symptom of asthma. It is very common for asthma to strike at night, or be worse after sunset. Some theories suggest that asthma can flare up at night due to triggers in your bedroom, hormonal fluctuations, and more.
FAQ #12: What other medical conditions cause nocturnal wheezing, apart from asthma?
Wheezing at night can also be the result of anxiety at night, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or obesity. Some people may have a combination of GERD as well as asthma and such people may find that acid reflux triggers their asthma symptoms when lying down.
FAQ #13: Can allergies make you wheeze?
Common allergy symptoms that can elicit wheezing symptoms include:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes
- Skin irritation
- Digestive problems
FAQ #14: Is wheezing a medical emergency?
There is no doubt that wheezing is not always a medical emergency. However, if your wheezing is accompanied by dizziness, swollen throat or tongue, and difficulty breathing and is waking you up at night, that’s a sign that it’s not well-controlled.
FAQ #15: Does wheezing mean asthma?
Although wheezing is a hallmark asthma symptom, however, wheezing alone doesn’t necessarily mean you have asthma.
FAQ #16: What are the 3 main causes of wheezing?
The three main conditions that can lead to wheezing are :
FAQ #17: What kind of doctor do I see for wheezing?
You should see an allergist or pulmonologist if you have a disease that affects your respiratory system. A pulmonologist specializes in diseases that affect your upper airways, lungs, thoracic cavity, and chest.
FAQ #18: What tests will the doctor run to check the cause of wheezing?
Your doctor may order some tests like:
- Lung function tests
- Blood test to check the levels of oxygen
If you or any of your loved ones is having bouts of wheezing, consult a doctor. Yes, even if it seems like you’re dealing with something relatively innocent; do not let your wheezing go without sufficient treatment.
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