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Alternative namesSibilant rhonchi
DefinitionWheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound produced by air flowing through narrowed breathing tubes, especially the smaller ones deep in the lung. It is a common finding in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The clinical importance of wheezing is that it is an indicator of airway narrowing, and it may indicate difficulty breathing.
Wheezing is most obvious when exhaling (breathing out), but may be present during either inspiration (breathing in) or exhalation.
Wheezing most often comes from the small bronchial tubes (breathing tubes deep in the chest), but it may originate if larger airways are obstructed or in certain cases of vocal cord abnormalities.
Call your health care provider if
If wheezing is severe or is accompanied by severe shortness of breath, you may have to go directly to the nearest emergency department.
The medical history will be obtained and a physical examination performed.
Medical history questions documenting wheezing in detail may include:
Diagnostic tests that may be performed are:
Drugs to relieve narrowing of the airways, such as albuterol, are usually given by inhalation. Hospitalization may be required if the patient's breathing is particularly difficult or if close observation by medical personnel, intravenous medications, supplemental oxygen are required. In any case, the patient will need to be closely watched.
If a diagnosis is made related to wheezing (such as asthma or COPD), further action to treat and manage the condition would be needed.
Update Date: 8/23/2002A.D.A.M. editorial (8/23/02). Previous review: David A. Kaufman, M.D., Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (2/17/02).
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT