What is a Wheezing Cough?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 01 February 2019
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A wheezing cough is a cough which is accompanied by a whistle-like sound, which typically occurs in combination with shortness of breath and usually does not produce mucus. The most common causes of a wheezing cough include asthma and bronchitis, the latter of which is often aggravated by smoking or second-hand smoke exposure. Treatment of this type of cough varies based on the cough’s cause. Those with an asthma-related cough may find relief in the use of an inhaler, while bronchitis sufferers often must simply wait for their bodies to combat the virus causing the cough.

The defining characteristic of a wheezing cough is the dry, whistling noise which accompanies it. Often the cough does not bring up mucus from the lungs. It may occur in combination with shortness of breath, which can be highly uncomfortable or even frightening for the sufferer or, in the case of a young child, his caregivers.

Most often, this type of cough is symptomatic of asthma or bronchitis. Both conditions are characterized by the inflammation of lung passages, which narrows the airways and complicates breathing. The wheezing sound associated with both asthma and bronchitis-derived coughs is typically caused by the movement of air through these narrowed breathing channels. While asthma is a chronic condition, however, bronchitis is often a temporary illness caused by a viral infection.


Treatment for a wheezing cough varies based on the exact cause of the cough, and a cough sufferer should consult his physician to determine the best treatment plan for his condition. Asthma patients may benefit from a combination of treatments, such as a daily medication that works to maintain healthy lung function, and a fast-acting inhaler that quickly opens the airways should the condition flare up. Additionally, asthma sufferers can prevent coughing by determining and avoiding specific triggers that may aggravate their condition, such as pet dander or pollen.

As a bronchitis-related cough is often caused by a viral or, less frequently, bacterial infection, it requires a different treatment approach than that used for asthma. In the case of viral bronchitis, the sufferer may be advised to simply stay hydrated and rested for several days, allowing the body’s immune system to combat the virus. Bacterial bronchitis may be effectively treated with antibiotics. Those with chronic, or long-lasting, bronchitis may benefit from an ongoing breathing therapy program. Smoking as well as secondhand smoke exposure can aggravate the symptoms of bronchitis, and thus should be avoided by those suffering from a wheezing cough.


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Post 7

I think it's the whistle sound that really makes the wheezing cough sound different than a dry cough.

My husband gets a wheezing cough that is always accompanied by tightness in his chest. He doesn't have asthma but comes down with bronchitis once every winter.

His has always been bacterial bronchitis and they treat it with antibiotics. Sometimes this bronchitis can be tough to treat. There have been times they have had to switch to stronger medications to control the symptoms.

Many times his symptoms sound worse than he actually feels. To listen to him cough and wheeze you would think he was taking his last breath.

Once he gets started on the antibiotics he is able to work as normal and doesn't feel like he is very sick.

Post 6

One of the first signs and symptoms of asthma I had was shortness of breath. It was a scary feeling when I felt like no matter how much I tried, I couldn't get enough oxygen.

My asthma symptoms are not as serious as some people I know, but I always have to be prepared. I keep an inhaler with me and try to avoid spending much time in homes where they have indoor pets.

That is much easier said than done because many families have pets in the house. Once I stayed overnight at a friend's house where they have multiple pets.

I woke up in the night and could hardly breathe. This is one of those

times I had a wheezing cough that went along with my other symptoms. I am so glad I had my inhaler so I get could my breath.

I had to leave earlier in the morning than I planned because I was afraid my symptoms would only get worse if I stayed longer.

Post 5

Are asthma symptoms in adults the same as those in kids? As far as I know nobody in my immediate family has ever had asthma.

One of my cousins has a girl who has asthma symptoms brought on by exercising, but none of my kids or siblings have ever had any problems.

I recently got a kitten and ever since then I have found myself sneezing and getting red eyes. Once in awhile I find myself with a mild wheezing cough if I pick up my cat and she gets close to my face.

I have had pets before and never had any problems so I was really surprised when this started happening. I wonder if I am just allergic to the cat or if maybe I developed asthma as I got older?

Post 4

It is hard to listen to someone who has a wheezing cough. It's almost like I want to do something to help them feel better, but don't know how to help.

A wheezing cough sounds much different than a dry cough. My husband gets a dry cough every winter when the air in our house gets too dry.

My son suffers from asthma and gets a wheezing cough in the spring when the pollen count is high.

We always keep an inhaler on hand if his coughing gets too bad, but I can hardly stand to listen to that wheezing cough.

Post 3

@fify-- My six month old niece is being treated for bronchiolitis. I think that's different from bronchitis.

My sister rushed her to the hospital because she was wheezing and coughing. Asthma was the first thing that came to mind. It turned out to be a viral infection that's developed in her lung's airways. The doctor said that it's normal for it to be confused with asthma because the symptoms are really similar like chronic cough, wheezing.

Anyway, she's on an anti-inflammatory medication for babies now and is doing better. She is coughing less. I hope she gets over it really soon. It's so upsetting when I see her coughing, I can't bear it!

Post 2

I adopted a cat this year. I had never had one before. So I got worried big time when he started getting a wheezing cough. I took him to the veterinarian and it turned out that it's because of hairballs.

The veterinarian listened to his lungs first to make sure everything was fine there. He then explained to me that cat develop hairballs because the clean their fur and swallow hairs. But it can't be digested so it builds up in the stomach and is eventually gotten rid of through coughing or vomiting.

Apparently, as the hairball is building up, the cat can have a slight wheezing cough once in a while. It's his attempt to get rid of the hairball. It's not supposed to last long or be constant though.

I'm glad I found out about all this and I know it's normal now.

Post 1

I've had bacterial bronchitis several times before. The wheezing cough has to be the worst symptom of bronchitis, especially when it's constant. Last time I had bronchitis, I had a wheezing cough for an entire month! It was horrible because my chest and throat was aching from it and I couldn't get sleep at night because of the coughing.

And wheezing cough is not like a regular cough at all. It's very intense, it feels like you're coughing up something from your lung, but it's dry like the article said. And there isn't much that can be done to treat the cough itself. The antibiotics treat the infection but it takes time. Cough medicine works but it wears out in half a day for me. And I don't like to overload on cough syrup.

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