Hearing a high-pitched, whistling noise when you breathe? Doctors refer to this sound as wheezing, and it’s a common symptom of several breathing and lung problems, like asthma.
The board-certified providers at Wasatch Peak Family Practice & Oceans Contours in Layton, Utah, specialize in diagnosing and treating asthma and other breathing problems that cause wheezing in patients.
Our team also knows it’s not always easy to understand when it’s time to seek medical help for wheezing. That’s why we put together this brief guide with more information about wheezing and when it's time to see your doctor.
Why am I wheezing?
Wheezing results when the air you breathe is forced through narrower-than-normal airways. Inflammation of any kind that causes any part of your airways, from your lungs to your throat, to constrict can cause you to wheeze.
Two of the most common reasons people wheeze are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. This is because both conditions cause spasms in your airways and the narrowing of these passages.
These aren’t the only causes of wheezing, however. You can also start wheezing because of:
- Upper respiratory infections (URIs), like a cold
- An allergic reaction
- Inhaling a foreign object
- Certain medical conditions (e.g., cystic fibrosis; congestive heart failure)
In rare cases, a tumor or other growth can push on your airways and trigger wheezing.
When should I call my provider about wheezing?
Not all cases of wheezing require medical intervention. If you’re experiencing only mild wheezing and have an upper respiratory infection, for example, before calling your provider, you can try some simple self-care practices, including:
- Adding moisture to the air with a humidifier or by taking a steamy shower
- Drinking plenty of warm fluids to relax your airways
- Staying away from smoke
- Taking over-the-counter cough/cold medications
Schedule an appointment as soon as possible if you have wheezing without a URI, chronic or recurrent wheezing, wheezing along with a fever over 101 degrees, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or rapid breathing.
If your wheezing occurs after any the following, seek emergency medical care by calling 911 or heading to the closest emergency room:
- Choking on an object or food
- A bee or insect sting
- You take a new medication or new dose of existing medication
- You eat a food that causes an allergic reaction
You should also seek immediate medical help if you’re wheezing and also have severe difficulty breathing, pass out or get confused, or develop noticeable skin or lip changes (blue or gray skin).
What if my wheezing is related to asthma?
If you have a history of asthma or are concerned your wheezing may be caused by asthma, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a provider who specializes in asthma care.
At Wasatch Peak Family Practice & Oceans Contours, your provider evaluates your medical and family histories, discusses your current symptoms, and uses special lung-function tests to accurately diagnose asthma.
If your provider determines your wheezing is related to asthma, they work with you to create a personalized asthma treatment plan. Treatments differ based on your unique needs, but may include:
- Help avoiding triggers
- Asthma medications
- Steroid inhalers or nebulizers
- Allergy medications
Get to the bottom of your wheezing by scheduling an appointment over the phone or by messaging a provider at Wasatch Peak Family Practice & Oceans Contours.