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When your airway is partially closed, you may hear a harsh, coarse whistling or rattling sound coming from your breath.

While many wheezes may be heard with the human ear, some can only be heard with a stethoscope. When you exhale (breath out), wheezing is more audible than when you breathe in (inhale). Depending on whether a section of the respiratory system is blocked or restricted, the wheeze's tone can change. A hoarser wheeze could result from the upper respiratory system narrowing. Lower obstacles may have a more melodic tone, akin to the sound of a wind instrument like a clarinet.

Anyone, from young children to senior citizens, can develop wheezing. Asthma frequently develops in children. Infants frequently experience wheezing; it's thought that up to 25% to 30% of them do so throughout the first year of life.

Because of their narrower airways, newborns may experience wheezing more frequently. Additionally, bronchiolitis, a frequent but readily curable illness, can affect children under the age of two. Inflammation and viral respiratory infection are the causes of this. Adult smokers, those with emphysema, and those with heart problems are most likely to wheeze.

Inspiratory vs. expiratory wheezing

Inhalation wheezing and expiratory wheezing are the two main forms (when you exhale).

Expiratory wheeze is more audible because your airways are more constricted at this point in the breathing cycle. Expiratory wheezing can occasionally be heard by itself. A modest airway blockage is frequently detected only by wheezing after expiration.

When you breathe in, you start to wheeze. Some asthmatics only wheeze during the inspiratory phase of breathing. You may have a more serious breathing problem if you wheeze both when you exhale and when you inhale. Your doctor will use a stethoscope to determine the type of wheezing you have by determining whether it is loudest over your lungs or neck.

When heard across the lungs, especially in acute asthma, expiratory wheezing frequently goes hand in hand with inhalator wheezing. But if you hear stridor or inspiratory wheezing above your neck, that can be a sign of a major upper airway obstruction.

Risk Factors

Wheezing can happen to anyone. Infants frequently experience it, probably as a result of their smaller airways. Children who have bronchiolitis or asthma are also susceptible to it.

Adult smokers, those with emphysema or heart problems, and those who smoke are more likely to wheeze.


  • How long have you had a cough?
  • Does it occur while you work out?
  • Do you frequently wheeze?
  • Do you wheeze more in the morning or the evening?
  • Does sleep aid in regulating it?
  • When you breathe in or out, or both in and out, do you wheeze?
  • Are you a smoker?
  • Do specific meals tend to make you cough or wheeze?

They'll pay attention to the sounds your lungs make while you breathe. 

They may carry out tests like:

  • X-rays to visualize your lungs
  • Lung function examinations to assess their efficiency
  • Blood test to determine your oxygen saturation. (Those that are too low can indicate a lung condition)


Wheezing has a wide range of causes, Age, health, and surroundings all affect a person's likelihood of wheezing.

The air passing through the airways can produce a squeaking sound when the airways are constricted as a result of irritation, disease, or a blockage.

Some patients can suffer other signs, such as difficulty breathing or a choking feeling.

  • Allergies - Allergies to certain foods and seasons can irritate the respiratory system and lead to congestion and breathing problems.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are two inflammatory disorders that are included in COPD.
  • Cold and flu - Inflammation and respiratory issues may result from cold or flu-related infections.
  • Heart disease - Coughing, difficulty breathing, and fluid in the lungs are all symptoms of heart disease.
  • Asthma - The chronic respiratory disorder asthma enlarges and inflames the airways.
  • Physical blockage - A person's windpipe may become blocked by food or other items. Usually, it is a medical emergency.
  • Bronchitis - Inflammation of the bronchial passages is referred to as bronchitis. It frequently results from a bacterial or viral illness.
  • Pneumonia - Lung infection is known as pneumonia.

Causes of Wheezing in babies and children

Because newborns only breathe through their noses, they may wheeze or squeak when they are congested or in an awkward position.

Children frequently wheeze. Before the age of three, one in three children will have at least one severe wheezing episode. This is unimportant as long as they are breathing normally and their chest is not collapsing.

However, lower respiratory diseases like pneumonia or bronchiolitis can also induce wheezing in infants and young children. Other illnesses like allergies, physical obstructions, and asthma can also cause wheezing.


Dr. Tanay Joshi
Respiratory & Sleep Medicine
Meet The Doctor
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