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Wheezing: what it is, causes and treatment

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Wheezing: what it is, causes and treatment
Wheezing: what it is, causes and treatment

Wheezing, popularly known as wheezing, is characterized by a high-pitched sound, similar to a whistle, which occurs when a person breathes.

This symptom occurs due to narrowing or inflammation of the airways, which can result from various conditions, such as allergies or respiratory tract infections, for example, the most common being asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

The treatment of wheezing varies according to the underlying cause, but in most cases, it is necessary to resort to anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator drugs.

Possible causes

There are several causes that may be at the origin of wheezing, such as:

  • Asthma;
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD);
  • Emphysema;
  • Sleep Apnea;
  • Gastroesophageal reflux;
  • Heart failure;
  • Lung cancer;
  • Problems with vocal cords;
  • Bronchiolitis, bronchitis or pneumonia;
  • Respiratory tract infections;
  • Reactions to smoke or allergens;
  • Accidental inhalation of small objects;
  • Anaphylaxis, which is a medical emergency that requires immediate assistance.

Causes of wheezing in babies

In babies, wheezing is usually caused by hyperreactivity and narrowing of the airways, usually caused by colds, virus infection, allergies or reactions to food, and it can even happen without a known cause.

Other rarer causes of wheezing in babies are reactions to environmental pollution, such as cigarette smoke, gastroesophageal reflux, narrowing or malformations of the trachea, airways or lungs, defects in the vocal cords and the presence of cysts, tumors or other types of airway compression. Although rare, wheezing can also be a symptom of heart problems.

How the treatment is done

The treatment performed by the doctor will depend on the cause of the wheezing, and aims to reduce the inflammation of the airways, so that breathing occurs normally.

In some cases, the doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatories to be administered orally or inhaled, which will help reduce inflammation, and inhaled bronchodilators, which cause the bronchi to dilate, making breathing easier.

In people who suffer from allergies, the doctor may also recommend the use of an antihistamine, and if it is a respiratory tract infection, antibiotics may be necessary, which can be combined with other medicines intended for relieve symptoms.

More serious conditions, such as heart failure, lung cancer or anaphylaxis, for example, require more specific and urgent treatment.

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