What Is Rhonchi?

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  • Written By: A. Gamm
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 30 June 2019
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Commonly referred to as wheezing, rhonchi affects the respiratory system and are a type of abnormal sound made while breathing, which is similar to rales and stridor. One type is higher pitched and typically heard during an asthma attack. The second is sometimes called sonorous rhonchi and may sound similar to snoring. In most cases, rhonchi are caused by a blockage in the airways or fluid in the bronchial passageway. If an episode occurs, it is recommended that a doctor is seen for effective treatment.

Sibilant or high pitched rhonchi are usually used synonymously with wheezing, though some professionals differentiate the two by defining wheezing as more pronounced during an exhale. One of the most commonly heard sibilant rhonchi occurs during an asthma attack. It may also occur with a bronchial infection in which fluids are left trapped in the passageway.

Sonorous or deep snore-like breathing, is perhaps the more common form of rhonchi and typically involves some form of secretion or blockage in the air passageway. Tumors in the throat or around the lungs may frequently cause this condition, among other undesired side effects. Bronchiectasis, damaged airways, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is chronic emphysema and bronchitis, also frequently cause this breathing problem. Croup is a common cause in children. Infections such as a bout of bronchitis, a cold, or flu may also be a cause due to mucus buildup.


If a person suspects he or she may have rhonchus breathing, seeing a health care professional is usually recommended. This is typically a sign of another serious health problem that may worsen if left untreated. Although asthma-related rhonchus breathing may not seem serious to those who already know about their condition and have the necessary medications to handle an asthma attack, it is still recommended that a doctor be notified of the attack.

Treatment typically depends on several factors, such as whether it is sibilant or sonorous, if it is due to a blockage or secretion, and other health issues like the amount of oxygen reaching the brain. For blockages, a health care professional may discuss several options including surgery to remove or reduce the blockage. To treat fluids due to illness, antibiotics or other medications may be used as well as humidifiers, breathing techniques, and physical therapy to help break down the secretions in the lungs. Many also suggest coughing.


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Post 1

I had to chuckle when I saw this word. It looks for all the world like a type of Japanese food. But when I saw the definition, the spelling made sense, with the "rh" prefix, like "rhinitis."

Bronchitis frequently causes wheezing, or rhonchi, also, and this, along with a slight cough, can persist long after the person has recovered. So it’s not always a symptom – sometimes, it can be an after effect.

But as the article mentions, any kind of wheezing that lasts longer than a couple of days should be checked out by a doctor. It's not something to ignore.

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