Wheezing is a high purring or whistling sound. You hear it more on breathing out than in. Air flowing through swollen or tight breathing tubes usually causes wheezing.

Wheezing sounds like other problems. Croup sounds like wheezing. A high cough goes with croup. A stuffed nose makes a snorting sound. Mucus in the windpipe makes a rattling sound.

Wheezing means it is hard for your child to breathe. Check with the doctor if your child wheezes.

What Causes Wheezing?

  • Asthma – This is the number 1 cause of wheezing. Most children grow out of asthma. But it sometimes comes back after they are grown up. Asthma attacks are scary. They can be serious, too. But they hardly ever kill. Here are some things that can cause an asthma attack:
    • Respiratory tract infection or bronchitis
    • Your child gets near some thing they are allergic to, like dust mites, pollen, mold, food, animals, perfume, etc.
    • Exercising to hard
    • Some medicines
    • Getting upset
    • A change in the weather
    • Smells from wet paint, cleaners, bug sprays, smoke, burning coals, car exhaust, wood smoke, etc.
    • Ice cold drinks or cold air. These can sometimes make breathing tubes close up.

  • Respiratory tract infection
  • Something caught in the windpipe
  • A lung problem the child was born with
  • Pneumonia

Questions to Ask

Note: Call 911 or your local rescue squad if your child is turning blue or not breathing. Then you may need to do the Heimlich maneuver (for choking), rescue breathing, or CPR. Take a class in emergency first aid for children to learn when and how to do these things.

Is your child turning blue or not breathing?Yes: Seek Care
Did your child’s wheezing start during the last few hours? Are they coughing up bubbly pink or white phlegm?Yes: Seek Care
Does your child have any of these problems?
  • Looks like they can’t breathe
  • Very bad wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Can’t talk
Yes: Seek Care
Does your child have a fever over 101oF?Yes:See Doctor
If your child has asthma, is the wheezing getting worse? Or is your child not getting better with treatment?Yes:Call Doctor

Self-Care Tips

There is no cure for viral infections, allergies, or asthma. But you can help your child’s wheezing:

  • Try to get your child to drink lots of liquids. These help thin the mucus. Get your child to sip juice, water, soup, or weak tea. Don’t give your child ice-cold drinks.
  • Set up a cool-mist vaporizer. Clean it every day. Or take your child to the bathroom and turn on the hot water in the sink and shower.
  • If your child has asthma, do what your child’s doctor says, and:
    • Stay calm. Use the bronchhodiilator as instructed by the doctor.
    • Keep your child away from things they are allergic to.
    • Mix 3/4 cup of bleach in a gallon of water. Wipe the bathroom tiles, kitchen stove, sink, woodwork, etc. Do this anyplace that fungus or mold grow. Then air out the room.
    • Keep pets outside or away from your child if he or she is allergic to them. Be sure to keep pets out of your child’s bedroom.
    • Vacuum often to suck up dust mites, pollen, and pet dander. Put a filter mask on your child before you start to vacuum.
    • Put a plastic cover on your child’s mattress and pillow. Wash mattress pads in hot water every week.
    • Quit smoking. Even old smoke in a room can make your child wheeze.
    • Use throw rugs that you can wash instead of carpeting. Keep them clean.
    • Put an air conditioner or electronic air filter on your furnace.

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021