Wheezing

Specialty of Paediatrics

What is wheezing?

Wheezing is a whistling sound that can occur while breathing. The sound can be heard more often when air is expelled. This can occurs whe the respiratory passages are too narrow.

What are the causes of wheezing?

When wheezing is recurrent, it may indicate respiratory problems, such as:

  • Aspiration of a foreign body in the lungs
  • Asthma
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Bronchitis
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Emphysema,, especially when there is a respiratory infection
  • Insect bites that cause an allergic reaction
  • Heart failure (cardiac asthma)
  • Pneumonia
  • Drugs, particularly acetylsalicylic acid
  • Viral infection, especially in infants younger than 2 years
  • Smoking

What is the treatment for wheezing?

Wheezing can be treated by treating the cause, i.e the pathology causing the wheezing. In general, bronchodilators, substances that widen the respiratory tract, can alleviate it. Oral corticosteroids can also be given for one or two weeks, which help relieve acute crises if they are due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma.

If the wheezing is due to a severe allergic reaction, it is treated with intravenous antihistamines, corticosteroids, bronchodilators and epinephrine (adrenaline) injected under the skin.

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