Skip to Content

Asthma and Wheezing

Topic Overview

Wheezing is a whistling noise that occurs when thebronchial tubes, which carry air to the lungs, narrow because ofinflammationormucusbuildup. Wheezing is often present inasthma.

During anasthma attack, the bronchial tubes become smaller. At first, the person may wheeze when breathing out. As the attack becomes worse, the person may also wheeze when breathing in. During a severe asthma episode, wheezing may go away because little air is moving through the narrowed bronchial tubes.

Wheezing is a sign of asthma in children, but it does not always mean that a child has asthma. Children younger than 5 often develop wheezing during a respiratory infection. Children with a family history of allergies seem to be more likely than other children to have one or more episodes of wheezing with colds. Children with certain viral infections, such asrespiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rhinovirus (which causes the common cold), and influenza virus, also are likely to develop wheezing.

Wheezing also is more likely to occur in children who:

  • Are male.
  • Have smaller-than-normal airways at birth and in early childhood.
  • Are exposed to smoke before and after birth.
  • Have a low birth weight.
  • Have a parent, particularly a mother, who has allergies or asthma.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerElizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine

Current as ofDecember 6, 2017

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2018 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Symptom Checker

Feeling under the weather?

Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.

Symptom Checker

Decision Points

Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.

You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:

Interactive Tools

Get started learning more about your health!

Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.