Is this your child's symptom?
- Breathing sound that is high-pitched and tight
- A purring or whistling sound
- You can hear it best when your child is breathing out
- Use this guide only if your child has not been diagnosed with asthma
Causes of Wheezing
- Bronchiolitis. This is the main cause in the first 2 years of life. Bronchiolitis peaks at 6-12 months. This is a viral infection (usually RSV) of the small airways. These small airways are called bronchioles.
- Asthma. This is the main cause after age 2. The first attack of asthma can be hard to diagnose. Asthma is defined as attacks of wheezing that recur.
- Airway Foreign Object (Serious). Suspect this when there is a sudden onset of coughing, choking and wheezing. A clue is wheezing heard only on one side. Common examples of inhaled objects are peanuts and seeds. Peak age is 1 to 4 years.
- Nasal Sounds. When the nose is congested, it can produce some whistling sounds. This can happen during a cold or with nasal allergies. Unlike wheezing, the breathing is not tight. Also, nasal rinses with saline will make the sound go away.
Care Advice for Mild Wheezing
- What You Should Know About Wheezing:
- Wheezing is a high-pitched purring or whistling sound.
- Wheezing means the lower airway is tight.
- This is often part of a cold, but it can become worse.
- Here is some care advice that should help until you talk with your doctor.
- Coughing Fits or Spells:
- Breathe warm mist (such as with shower running in a closed bathroom).
- Give warm clear fluids to drink. Examples are apple juice and lemonade.
- Age under 3 months. Don't use.
- Age 3 - 12 months of age. Give 1 ounce (30 mL) each time. Limit to 4 times per day.
- Age over 1 year of age. Give as much as needed.
- Reason: Both relax the airway and loosen up any phlegm.
- Homemade Cough Medicine:
- Do not give any over-the-counter cough medicine to children with wheezing. Instead, treat the cough using the these tips:
- Age 3 months to 1 year: Give warm clear fluids to treat the cough. Examples are apple juice and lemonade. Amount: Use a dose of 1-3 teaspoons (5-15 mL). Give 4 times per day when coughing. Caution: Do not use honey until 1 year old.
- Age 1 year and older: Use Honey ½ to 1 teaspoon (2-5 mL) as needed. It works as a homemade cough medicine. It can thin the secretions and loosen the cough. If you don't have any honey, you can use corn syrup.
- Nasal Saline To Open a Blocked Nose:
- Use saline (salt water) nose drops or spray to loosen up the dried mucus. If you don't have saline, you can use a few drops of water. Use distilled water, bottled water or boiled tap water.
- Step 1. Put 3 drops in each nostril. If under 1 year old, use 1 drop.
- Step 2. Blow (or suction) each nostril out while closing off the other nostril. Then, do the other side.
- Step 3. Repeat nose drops and blowing (or suctioning) until the discharge is clear.
- How Often. Do nasal saline when your child can't breathe through the nose.
- Limit. If under 1 year old, no more than 4 times per day or before every feeding.
- Saline nose drops or spray can be bought in any drugstore. No prescription is needed.
- Saline nose drops can also be made at home. Use ½ teaspoon (2 mL) of table salt. Stir the salt into 1 cup (8 ounces or 240 mL) of warm water. Use bottled water or boiled water to make saline nose drops.
- Reason for nose drops: Suction or blowing alone can't remove dried or sticky mucus. Also, babies can't nurse or drink from a bottle unless the nose is open.
- Other option: use a warm shower to loosen mucus. Breathe in the moist air, then blow each nostril.
- For young children, can also use a wet cotton swab to remove sticky mucus.
- If the air in your home is dry, use a humidifier. Reason: Dry air makes coughs worse.
- Smaller Feedings:
- Use small, frequent feedings whenever your child has the energy to drink.
- Reason: Children with wheezing don't have enough energy for long feedings.
- Avoid Tobacco Smoke:
- Tobacco smoke makes coughs and wheezing much worse.
- Return to School:
- Your child can return to child care after the wheezing and fever are gone.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Trouble breathing gets worse
- Wheezing gets worse
- You think your child needs to be seen
- Your child becomes worse
And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.
When to see a Doctor
Call 911 Now
- Wheezing and life-threatening allergic reaction to similar substance in the past
- Start to wheeze suddenly after a bee sting, taking medicine, or eating an allergic food
- Severe trouble breathing (struggling for each breath, very tight wheezing, can barely cry)
- Passed out or stopped breathing
- Bluish lips or face
- Choked on a small object or food recently
- You think your child has a life-threatening emergency
Call Doctor or Seek Care Now
- Wheezing, but none of the symptoms above. Reason: needs a doctor's exam.
Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.