Common causes of wheezing in babies and children

Written by: Dr Mark Rosenthal
Edited by: Jay Staniland

Wheezing is a common symptom in young children, but it can have many different causes. The first step towards finding the right approach for wheezing baby treatment is to find out what is wrong. Your doctor should be able to provide a diagnosis from among the following common causes of wheezing in babies.


Asthma in children


If your child is often wheezing and coughing, it could be a sign of asthma, especially if it gets worse after exercise or at night. It’s important to seek wheezing baby treatment if the problem persists as your child will require treatment if the cause is asthma.


Allergies in children


Both food allergies and airborne allergies can cause wheezing in children. Other possible symptoms include a runny nose, red eyes, and rashes on the skin. It is important to see a specialist if you think that your child has an allergy. The doctor will be able to confirm the diagnosis, identify the trigger and advise you on managing it.




Bronchiolitis is a viral infection that usually starts with cold-like symptoms. It then develops into a cough that is often accompanied by wheezing and heavy breathing. The symptoms should go away within a couple of weeks.




A barking cough is the most characteristic sign of croup, but it can also cause cold-like symptoms, fever, wheezing and noisy breathing. Croup is caused by a virus and shouldn’t last more than about a week.


Pneumonia in children


Pneumonia is a lung infection that typically develops after a bad cold or the flu. It causes a severe cough that often brings up mucus and which may be accompanied by wheezing. Children will also develop a fever and you may that they are breathing more quickly than usual. It is important to see a doctor for wheezing baby treatment if you suspect pneumonia as the symptoms can be severe.


Swallowed object


Another potential cause of wheezing in young children is that something has become lodged in the throat. It is essential to seek help right away if you think there is something stuck in your child’s throat, particularly if they are choking, coughing or having difficulty breathing.

If you are concerned about any other the symptoms mentioned above, you should always see a doctor or make an appointment with a paediatric respiratory specialist.

By Dr Mark Rosenthal
Paediatric respiratory medicine

Dr Mark Rosenthal is a London-based consultant respiratory paediatrician, one of only a few in the UK who dedicates himself exclusively to this field. He practises at various prominent clinics in the capital including the Royal Brompton Hospital, the national referral centre for diseases of the lungs and heart, and home to one of the largest clinics for cystic fibrosis in the world. He has been invited to give lectures across Europe, the USA, Japan, Peru and South Africa and has appeared as a medical expert in legal cases in the UK high court and court of appeal and given evidence to a House of Lords select committee on allergy.

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