Is Wheezing A Common Asthma Symptom for Adults?

What You Need to Know (and Do) About Wheezing

Senior African American man using asthma inhaler
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Wheezing is one of the most common asthma symptoms you may experience and is often the main reason many people seek care. Parents and patients are often scared the first time they hear wheezing.

With wheezing, you will hear a high-pitched whistle sound as you breathe through your mouth or nose. While most commonly heard as you exhale or breathe air out of the lungs, wheezing can occur when inhaling or breathing in.

The wheezing sound results from the airways of the lungs narrowing as a result of inflammation and constriction. This makes it more difficult for air to flow through the lung.

The inflammatory response that is part of asthma is the reason this inflammation occurs. ​Not all wheezing is asthma since diseases like pneumonia, COPD, or certain vocal cord problems may lead to wheezing.

What Does It Mean If I Hear Wheezing?

Do you ever hear this sound when breathing? This is what wheezing sounds like when a doctor listens to your chest with a stethoscope. Wheezing is never normal and should not be ignored.

Wheezing is one of the classic symptoms associated with asthma. Based on your history and some or all of these other symptoms, your doctor may make a diagnosis of asthma:

However, wheezing can indicate a number of other medical problems besides asthma.

How is Wheezing Treated?

In and of itself, wheezing does not necessarily need to be treated. It is, however, very important to find our what is causing your wheezing. Wheezing certainly requires treatment if you begin to develop symptoms.

If you hear yourself wheezing the first thing you want to do is to step back and see if you were exposed to something that might be triggering your asthma.

This could be dust, molds, dust mites, environmental smoke, pollen, or any number of other allergens. One of the easiest ways to avoid wheezing is to avoid the cause from the beginning. Since you spend more than 90% of your life indoors, it will be key to look at your indoor environment first.

After you have made sure nothing in your environment is triggering your asthma symptoms, you can think about active treatment. Your rescue inhaler should provide immediate relief of wheezing and associated symptoms. Medicines such as albuterol act as a bronchodilator.Your asthma symptoms improve by relaxing the muscles in the tightened airways during an asthma attack. As a result of using your rescue inhaler, airways in the lung increase in size allowing more air to move more freely and provide you relief of symptoms.

The other kind of asthma treatment is you controller inhaler. These preventive medications include several different categories such as inhaled steroids. Each works in unique ways on a specific part of the pathophysiology of asthma, and some are more appropriate for certain levels of asthma severity. Similar to avoiding triggers, these medications will prevent you from ever developing wheezing.

When Should I Contact A Doctor?

Because wheezing is never normal, you need to contact you doctor or go to the emergency room if:

  1. If the wheezing is new
  2. If wheezing is not new, but getting worse
  3. You have any other symptoms such as a change in skin color or  you do not seem to be thinking right
  4. Wheezing occurs after taking a new medication, you are bitten by an insect, or seems to be caused by a food you recently ate

If your wheezing is a new problem and you do not have a diagnosis of asthma, you should definitely see a doctor as many different things can cause wheezing.

When you visit the doctor, you will be asked many questions about your history, symptoms, and if the symptoms are associated with any of these triggers.

Triggers are things that "set off" your asthma. You can learn how to identify and avoid these common triggers to help get better control of your asthma.

If you are already being treated for asthma and still wheezing significantly, your treatment may not be working or you may not be taking the treatment correctly. When your asthma is under good control, you should not wheeze. Improving communication with your doctor and asking for a health information prescription may help you gain the information and skills you need to get better control of your asthma.

If you use an Asthma Action Plan, make sure you follow the instructions for wheezing. If you don't have one, you need to make discussing one with your asthma doctor a priority.

What Is Your Biggest Asthma Problem

Chronic illnesses like asthma are hard to manage and they can be really complicated. What is the biggest problem you have with your asthma or what could we write about on the site that might help you improve your asthma?

If you want to interact with others with asthma or parents of asthmatics you may want to consider

Learn More About Your Asthma:


Medline Plus. Accessed July 7, 2016. Wheezing

Patient Information- University of Maryland Medical Center. Accessed July 7, 2016. Wheezing

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