Wheezing (Other Than Asthma)  
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Does this describe your child's symptoms?

  • A high-pitched purring or whistling sound produced during breathing out
  • Use this guideline only if the child has never been treated for asthma


  • 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 (bronchioles).
  • Main cause after age 2: may be the first attack of asthma.

Return to Day Care

  • Your child can return to child care after the wheezing and fever are gone.

If not, see these topics

When to Call Your Doctor

Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If
  • Wheezing started suddenly after medicine, an allergic food or bee sting
  • Severe difficulty breathing (struggling for each breath, making grunting noises with each breath, unable to speak or cry because of difficulty breathing)
  • Your child passed out or has bluish lips
  • Child recently choked on small object or food
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • Wheezing but none of the symptoms described above
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR MILD WHEEZING (until you talk with your doctor)

  1. Warm Fluids for Coughing Spasms: For any bouts of severe coughing, offer warm apple juice or lemonade if over 4 months old. (Reason: These can relax the airway and loosen up sticky secretions). Do not give any cough medicine.
  2. Nasal Washes To Open a Blocked Nose:
    • Use saline nose drops or spray to loosen up the dried mucus. If not available, can use warm tap water.
    • STEP 1: Instill 3 drops per nostril. (Age under 1 year, use 1 drop and do one side at a time)
    • STEP 2: Blow (or suction) each nostril separately, while closing off the other nostril. Then do other side.
    • STEP 3: Repeat nose drops and blowing (or suctioning) until the discharge is clear.
    • Frequency: Do nasal washes whenever your child can't breathe through the nose.
    • Saline nasal sprays can be purchased without a prescription.
    • Saline nose drops can also be made: Add 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) of table salt to 1 cup (8 ounces or 240 ml) of warm water.
    • Reason for nose drops: suction or nose blowing alone can't remove dried or sticky mucus.
    • Another 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.
    • Importance for a young infant: can't nurse or drink from a bottle unless the nose is open.
  3. Humidifier: If the air is dry in your home, run a humidifier.
  4. Smaller Feedings: Encourage small, frequent feedings whenever your child has the energy to drink. (Reason: Child with wheezing doesn't have enough energy for long feedings).
  5. Avoid Tobacco Smoke: Active or passive smoking makes coughs much worse.
  6. Contagiousness: Your child can return to child care after the wheezing and fever are gone.
  7. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Breathing becomes difficult, tight or loud
    • Wheezing becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011

Last Revised: 5/25/2011

Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.