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Seek immediate emergency help if your child is experiencing these symptoms:
  • Starts wheezing suddenly after taking medicine, an allergic food, or stung by a bee
  • Has severe difficulty breathing and/or is unable to speak or cry
  • Has passed out or has bluish lips
  • Has recently choked on small object or food

Pediatric Wheezing Overview

Wheezing is a high whistling sound usually heard when your child is breathing out (exhaling) It is caused by air flowing through swollen breathing tubes.

Causes of Wheezing

Wheezing can be brought on by any of a multitude of problems – from allergens to asthma to anatomical irregularities. Here is a list of the most common causes:

  • Asthma (also known as reactive airway disease) is a common problem in children. The most common symptoms include coughing, wheezing and trouble breathing, which are caused by inflammation and tightness in the breathing tubes of the lungs. The coughing and wheezing may be worse after exercise, after exposure to common triggers (cold air, smoke, and other irritants), and at night.
  • Exposure to allergens (food, pollen, and other substances, that cause a person to have an allergic reaction).
  • Fumes or weather changes.
  • Very cold drinks or air.
  • Bronchiolitis, an infection caused by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which produces swelling and mucus production in the small breathing tubes of your child's lungs. Infants aged two to 12 months are the most likely to become infected and usually begin having the symptoms of a common cold, with a runny nose and mild cough.
  • Cystic fibrosis, and other genetic disorders
  • Foreign Body Aspiration: This is caused when your child swallows an object, such as a coin or a peanut, and it gets stuck in a breathing tube – and it causes wheezing (and/or difficulty breathing). This typically happens to children between one and four years old – and unlike with asthma, the wheezing is occurring on only one side of his/her chest.
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux: Children with GER can sometimes have wheezing as the stomach contents are inhaled into the lungs or as the esophagus gets more acid in it. The symptoms of coughing and /or wheezing may be worse when he/she lies down.
  • Vocal Cord Dysfunction: In some children, the vocal cords close at improper times – which can lead to difficult breathing and is often misdiagnosed as asthma.

Risk Factors

  • Smoking by adults in the same household, especially maternal smoking
  • Household water damage, causing mold
  • Indoor allergens
  • Psychological stress
  • High ozone levels