A to Z: Wheezing

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A to Z: Wheezing

A "wheeze" is a high-pitched whistling sound made when air flows through narrowed airways in the lungs, usually when someone breathes out (exhales).

More to Know

Wheezing is often caused by bronchiolitis, a common viral infection during the winter months. Asthma, allergies, infections, gastroesophageal reflux, and inhaled foreign objects are other common causes of wheezing.

Infants and children sometimes develop wheezing when they have a cold or other respiratory infection, but it doesn't necessarily mean that they'll develop asthma. Many infants who wheeze during their first 3 years of life outgrow it later in childhood.

Sudden wheezing can occur if a child accidentally inhales a foreign object (such as a peanut, coin, small toy, or piece of popcorn) into the airway. Wheezing that develops slowly is more likely to be caused by an infection.

Keep in Mind

Wheezing is a common symptom of asthma, although it can have other causes. Repeated episodes of wheezing might be a sign of asthma, especially if there is a family history of asthma, eczema, or allergies. Be sure to talk to your health care provider if your child has wheezing.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

Related Resources

OrganizationAmerican Lung Association The mission of this group is to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Contact the group at: American Lung Association
61 Broadway, 6th Floor
NY, NY 10006
(212) 315-8700
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.

Related Articles

Lungs and Respiratory System By the time we're 70 years old, we will have taken at least 600 million breaths. All of this breathing couldn't happen without the respiratory system.
Wheezing and Asthma in Infants If your infant wheezes while battling a cold, you may be wondering if the problem is asthma. But it's not always clear if a baby has asthma.
Asthma Center Asthma keeps more kids home from school than any other chronic illness. Learn how to help your child manage the condition, stay healthy, and stay in school.
Bronchiolitis Bronchiolitis is a common illness of the respiratory tract caused by an infection that affects tiny airways - the bronchioles - that lead to the lungs.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of respiratory illness in young children. Learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of this contagious infection.

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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