Topic Overview

Wheezing is a whistling noise that occurs when the
bronchial tubes, which carry air to the lungs, narrow
because of
inflammation or
mucus buildup. Wheezing is often present in

During an
asthma attack, the bronchial tubes become smaller. At
first, the person may wheeze when breathing out. As the attack becomes worse,
the person may also wheeze when breathing in. During a severe asthma episode,
wheezing may go away because little air is moving through the narrowed
bronchial tubes.

Wheezing is a sign of asthma in children, but it does not always mean
that a child has asthma. Children younger than 5 often develop wheezing during
a respiratory infection. Children with a family history of allergies seem to be
more likely than other children to have one or more episodes of wheezing with
colds. Children with certain viral infections, such as
respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rhinovirus (which
causes the common cold), and influenza virus, also are likely to develop

Wheezing also is more likely to occur in children who:

  • Are male.
  • Have smaller-than-normal
    airways at birth and in early childhood.
  • Are exposed to smoke
    before and after birth.
  • Have a low birth weight.
  • Have a
    parent, particularly a mother, who has allergies or asthma.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD – Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Elizabeth T. Russo, MD – Internal Medicine

Current as ofMarch 25, 2017