Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound produced by air flowing through narrowed breathing tubes, especially the smaller ones deep in the lung. It is a common finding in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Wheezing is a whistling noise of varying pitch and loudness that occurs when the small airways (bronchioli) become
narrower because of inflammation or a buildup of mucus and dead cells in the airway. Initially, as these small air passages become narrower, wheezing may be heard when the person breathes out. Later, wheezing may be heard when the person breathes in and out.
Wheezing most often comes from the small bronchial tubes (breathing tubes deep in the chest), but it may originate if larger airways are obstructed or in certain cases of vocal cord abnormalities. Wheezing results from an obstruction somewhere in the airways. It may be caused by a general narrowing of the airways (as in asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), by a local narrowing (as with a tumor), or by a foreign particle lodged in an airway. The most common cause of recurrent wheezing is asthma, although many people who have never had asthma wheeze at some time in their lives.
Mild wheezing may be relieved by drinking plenty of juice, water, weak tea, and broth. Ice-cold drinks should be avoided. Drugs to relieve narrowing of the airways, such as albuterol, are usually given by inhalation. Hospitalization may be required if the patient's breathing is particularly difficult, or if close observation by medical personnel, intravenous medications, supplemental oxygen are required. In any case, the patient will need to be closely watched. If a diagnosis is made related to wheezing such as asthma or COPD, further action to treat and manage the condition will be needed.