Breathing trouble doctor checking breathing

Breathing trouble: Here's what your wheezing could mean.

Breathing is something we can take for granted until it becomes a struggle. If you've ever experienced the unsettling sound of wheezing when you breathe, you're not alone.

In this guide, we'll explore what wheezing is, what it could mean, and when to seek medical attention. Whether you've encountered this issue firsthand or want to be prepared, read on for insights into the potential causes and remedies for wheezing.

What is wheezing?

Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling or rattling sound made while breathing. It's produced when the airways narrow or become partially blocked. The restricted airflow creates turbulence, resulting in a wheezing sound.


Key points about wheezing

Here’s what to know about wheezing.


Sound characteristics

Wheezing can have a musical, sometimes hoarse, sound that may vary in tone. It may be more noticeable when you exhale, but it can occur during inhalation and exhalation.



Wheezing sounds typically originate from the small airways in the lungs. These passages become narrowed or blocked due to various factors, leading to an audible wheeze.


Common causes

Wheezing is associated with various underlying conditions, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), allergies, respiratory infections, or even physical obstructions like foreign bodies in the airways.


Symptomatic of an underlying issue

Wheezing is not a standalone condition but a symptom of an underlying respiratory problem. Other symptoms can accompany wheezing, such as coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.


Medical evaluation

If you experience wheezing, seek medical evaluation at your local CityMD. Wheezing can signify various conditions, some of which may require prompt treatment. Determining the cause of wheezing is essential to help you properly manage and improve your respiratory health.

Understanding wheezing and its potential causes is the first step toward effective management and treatment.


What does wheezing mean?

Wheezing is your body's way of signaling a problem in your respiratory system. It's not a diagnosis but rather a symptom — a red flag raised by your airways.

Here's what wheezing might mean.


Airway obstruction

Wheezing often occurs when there's an obstruction or narrowing in your airways. This could be due to inflammation, mucus buildup, or the tightening of the muscles that surround the air passages.


Respiratory conditions

Wheezing has connections to various respiratory conditions.

  • Asthma. Asthma is a chronic condition where the airways become inflamed, leading to wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is a group of lung conditions, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, characterized by airflow obstruction.
  • Bronchitis. Inflammation of the bronchial tubes can lead to wheezing, coughing, and excess mucus production.
  • Allergies. Allergic reactions, such as allergic rhinitis, can cause wheezing due to nasal congestion and airway inflammation.
  • Respiratory infections. Infections like bronchiolitis or pneumonia can cause temporary wheezing.
  • Physical obstructions. Wheezing can result from physical obstructions in the airways, such as a lodged foreign body or tumor.

Medication side effects

Certain medications, particularly those that can cause the airways to narrow, may lead to wheezing as a side effect.

Severity varies

Wheezing’s severity can vary. It may be a minor annoyance in some cases or a sign of a more serious underlying condition in others.

Seek medical evaluation

Don't ignore wheezing. Seek immediate medical attention, especially if you experience wheezing with chest pain, rapid breathing, swelling of the lips or tongue, or bluish skin.

Wheezing treatment at CityMD

While unsettling, wheezing indicates that your respiratory system needs attention and care. Whether it's a temporary episode or a persistent concern, understanding the potential causes and seeking timely treatment is important to your health.

At CityMD, we are committed to providing you with the best possible care for your respiratory needs. Our experienced health care professionals are trained to assess and address wheezing, whether it is related to asthma, allergies, infections, or other underlying conditions. Contact us or walk into any of our locations. No appointment is needed.

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Visit any CityMD urgent care location in your community today for an evaluation with one of our expert providers.