Why Am I Wheezing?

Have you ever experienced a high-pitched, whistling sound while breathing in and out? It can be alarming and uncomfortable, leaving you wondering: “Why am I wheezing?”

Wheezing is typically caused by inflammation that narrows or partially blocks airways, leading to lack of airflow during breathing. The resulting sound is usually a high-pitched whistling noise. It can occur when you breathe in (inhale), breathe out (exhale), or both. The sensation can vary from person to person but is often described as a tightness or constriction in the chest, making it difficult to breathe freely.

Wheezing is one of the common sounds you hear during compromised breathing. Other types of sounds signal different problems. A series of rattling or crackling sounds can be a sign of fluid in the air sacs. A high-pitched gasp may be a symptom of a contagious respiratory infection called whooping cough. Stridor is another common breathing condition. It’s a high-pitched squeaking noise — usually a sign of blocked airways due to vocal cord dysfunction or restriction in the trachea (commonly known as the windpipe).

Causes of Wheezing

Wheezing is a common symptom that can be caused by a variety of ailments. It can be a temporary condition or indicate a serious health issue. Here are the most common causes of wheezing.


Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the airways that leads to their narrowing and spasms in the small airways of the lungs. It is the most common cause of wheezing in young adults.


Inflammation of the bronchial tubes, often caused by viral or bacterial infections, can result in wheezing due to narrowed airways and excessive mucus production.


Allergic reactions, such as those triggered by pollen, dust mites, or animal dander, can cause wheezing by initiating an immune response that leads to airway inflammation and constriction.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), primarily caused by smoking, can lead to wheezing due to the progressive narrowing of the airways, spasms, and damage to lung tissue. COPD is most common in adults over the age of 50 and can lead to heart failure.

Respiratory infections

Infections affecting the respiratory system, including viral infections like the common cold or influenza, can cause wheezing by inflaming the airways and obstructing airflow.

Acid reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause wheezing when stomach acid regurgitates into the esophagus and reaches the airways. Acid reflux can lead to irritation and inflammation of the bronchial tubes.


Smoking cigarettes or exposure to secondhand smoke can irritate and inflame the airways. Smokers may develop wheezing due to airway constriction and increased mucus production.

Symptoms of Wheezing

We have talked a little about the sounds of wheezing. Let’s take a closer look at what it feels like.

  • Shortness of breath. You feel like you are unable to fully expand your lungs or take in enough air due to a welling or narrowing in your throat.
  • Chest tightness. This is a feeling of constriction or pressure in the chest, making it uncomfortable to breathe deeply.
  • A persistent, dry cough which can be exacerbated by irritation to your airway and production of sticky mucus.
  • Difficulty breathing. You feel like you can’t breathe in enough oxygen or exhale. This is often followed by a tightening in the chest and feeling like your throat is closing up.

Whether it’s a temporary episode or a chronic issue, understanding the causes and seeking appropriate treatment from your healthcare provider is crucial for your respiratory health.

Diagnosis and Treatment

At Florida Medical Clinic, our physicians can help you diagnose the root cause of wheezing through a variety of approaches.

  • Physical examination. A thorough examination of the respiratory system will be conducted to assess any signs of inflammation, airway obstruction, breathing problems, or abnormal lung sounds.
  • Medical history. Gathering information about your symptoms, triggers, past medical conditions, and family history helps identify potential underlying causes of wheezing.
  • Lung function tests. There are several pulmonary function tests. One of the most common ones is spirometry. It measures the volume and air speed as you inhale and exhale to gauge and monitor the severity of your breathing problem.
  • Medication and lifestyle changes. Depending on the underlying cause, your physician may recommend medical treatment to relieve airway inflammation, such as corticosteroids or bronchodilators. Lifestyle modifications, including breathing exercises, can promote better respiratory health and manage triggers.
  • Inhalers and nebulizers. These devices deliver medication directly into the airways in the lungs to treat wheezing. They provide quick relief by opening up the constricted airways and reduce wheezing and the ability to breathe.


Prevention is key when it comes to minimizing bouts of wheezing. By adopting certain strategies and making lifestyle changes, you can reduce the frequency and severity of wheezing episodes.

First, identify and avoid the triggers that cause wheezing. These triggers can vary from person to person but may include allergens like pollen, dust mites, or pet dander. They can also include irritants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, or strong odors. Take measures to minimize exposure to these triggers to help prevent wheezing episodes.

Quit smoking. Smoking cigarettes irritates and damages the airways, exacerbates wheezing, and increases the risk of developing respiratory conditions. Seeking support from healthcare professionals or support groups can greatly aid in smoking cessation.

Adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle. This can have significant benefits in managing wheezing. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy weight contribute to good respiratory function. Additionally, managing stress levels, practicing good hygiene, and getting adequate sleep can help support optimal lung function.

Remember, if you are experiencing wheezing or have concerns about your respiratory health, it is essential to seek medical advice and guidance from a healthcare provider.

At Florida Medical Center, our dedicated physicians can guide you in developing effective preventive strategies tailored to your specific needs. They can help you identify triggers, offer smoking cessation support, provide guidance on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and monitor your respiratory health over time. By working closely with our healthcare professionals, you can take proactive steps to prevent wheezing and improve your overall well-being.

Meet Dr. Joseph Hubaykah

Dr. Hubaykah, a pulmonologist at Florida Medical Clinic, is passionate about helping patients live happy and productive lives. After completing an internship/residency at Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore, he performed a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Saint Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. Married with four children, he enjoys being with his family and “dabbling” with chess in his free time.

Contact Dr. Hubaykah today to schedule an appointment by calling 1-813-788-6540, or request an appointment online.


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