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Wheezing

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Definition

Wheezing or rhonchi are audible whistling or high pitched sounds that are produced by the flow of air through narrowed small or large breathing passages in the lungs. This sound may also appear in some vocal cord abnormalities. This sound is produced mostly during exhaling (breathing the air out) but may be present while inhaling (breathing the air in). Wheezing is the hallmark of diseases where the air passages are narrowed, like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

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Causes

  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Viral infections of the upper respiratory tract
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Emphysema
  • Carcinoid syndrome
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Insect bites and stings
  • Choking
  • Allergies e.g. latex allergy
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Anaphylactic reaction e.g. penicillin
  • Inhalation of a foreign body
  • Medications like aspirin (aspirin induced asthma)
  • Food allergy
  • Cardiac Arrhythmia
  • Epiglottitis
  • Aspergillosis of lung
  • Cystic Fibrosis

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What You Can Do

  • An acute attack of severe wheezing requires hospitalization and supplemental oxygen
  • Manage the underlying cause of wheezing
  • Medications
    • Use your respiratory inhaler such as albuterol immediately
    • Bronchodilators like salbutamol and terbutaline may be prescribed by your physician. These drugs can be administered intravenously or taken orally
  • General Measures
    • Leave whatever you are doing and go out in the fresh air
    • Calm yourself, rest or lie down and try to relax.
    • Use a vaporizer (moist, heated air) to help alleviate your symptoms.
  • Consult your physician immediately if wheezing is associated with breathing difficulty, cyanosis (bluish discoloration of skin) or change in level of consciousness or if there are repeated episodes of wheezing in the absence of any respiratory disease.

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Wheezing