How do I know if my wheezing is serious?

The human body is indeed a complex creature. Many systems work in the body to help humans survive and adapt in many situations. One of the systems that is often taken for granted is the respiratory system. This specific system enables humans to breathe well while making sure the body is receiving all the oxygen needed for cells to work properly. Any problems to the respiratory system may lead a person to find doctors. One of the issues relating to respiratory issues is wheezing.

Wheezing is a high-pitched, coarse whistling sound that occurs during breathing. It is a sound produced when the air moves through narrowed airways, specifically the small breathing tubes called the bronchial tubes that lie inside the lungs or when the air moves through larger breathing airways that have some degree of blockage. Wheezing sound is most prominent to be heard when a person breathes out but sometimes may be heard when a person breathes in. Wheeze may be heard without the aid of a stethoscope when it is loud but in most cases, a stethoscope is needed to hear the wheezes better. Wheezes are present in all walks of life with a variety of causes but most common in young children due to the smaller airways making them susceptible to airway blockage.

Although wheezing is often associated with asthma, this may not be the entire case as there are other medical conditions that can contribute to such sound. Wheeze can also be found in people with congestive heart failure, foreign bodies such as toys stuck in the airways, tumours or other lesions blocking the airway. Examples of lesions blocking the airways include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and infections like croup or bronchiolitis. Wheeze may also be found in those with vocal cord problems and sleep apnoea. Thus, to state that wheezing only happens in asthma patients is certainly an understatement.

Since wheezing may be caused by many possible reasons, it is worth it to pay a visit to the doctor’s office whenever wheezing happens for the first time. While mild cases of wheezing may be resolved on its own, such as from having a cold and not a definite reason to see a doctor, this is a whole different story for serious wheezing. Wheezing is considered a serious one when it causes a person to have shortness of breath, fast breathing or impaired a person’s ability to perform daily tasks as usual.  Serious form of wheezing should raise a concern and to seek medical advice. A more serious wheezing such as wheezing that starts after an allergy reaction of medications, bee stung or food, wheezing that causes severe breathing issues and bluish skin, should be checked by a physician immediately by visiting the emergency room as soon as possible.

Wheezing itself is an abnormal breathing sound. When wheezing is heard by a physician, a series of questions will be asked to help identify the possible cause and the wheezing pattern. Aside from a stethoscope to check for the wheezing sound, other tests might be done to get clear pictures of the lung and its function. This includes x-rays, lung function tests using spirometry and blood tests to check for oxygen levels.

Treatment to alleviate wheezing depends on the cause. In most cases, the first thing a physician may do is to give oxygen to help a person breathe better and to stay in the hospital for a while until the wheezing is controlled. Medications such as bronchodilator, inhaled corticosteroids or antibiotics are among medicines used to help treat the cause of wheezing itself. In essence, wheezing can both be harmless and serious depending on the symptoms and causes. Hence, it is wise to ask a doctor if you are worried about wheezing.