Wheezing is a respiratory condition. It is characterised by coarse whistling sounds in the lungs heard on breathing. A doctor can hear these sounds with the help of a stethoscope. But what does wheezing indicate? Read through to know more about wheezing causes and effective wheezing treatment. Also, find out what natural remedies for wheezing help.
Wheezing is the result of narrowed-down airways. This can be because of various reasons, namely:
- Asthma – Asthma causes the airways to narrow down, swell and produce extra mucus. This triggers breathing difficulty and wheezing.
- Allergic reaction – Asthma and other allergic reactions work in a similar way to affect airways and lungs.
- Bronchitis – Bronchitis results in continual coughing, making the chest muscles sore. This results in wheezing.
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – COPD obstructs the airflow from the lungs, resulting in wheezing.
- Emphysema – As the inner walls of the alveoli, the lungs’ air sacs, get damaged, it leads to wheezing.
- Cystic Fibrosis – The condition causes the mucus to become thick and stick. This obstructs the airways resulting in wheezing.
- Lung Cancer – The presence of a tumour in the lungs can block major airways, obstructing airflow and leading to wheezing.
- Congestive Heart Failure – the condition leads to fluid accumulation in the lungs and around the airways, leading to wheezing.
- Pneumonia – Pneumonia causes lung inflammation due to pus or fluid accumulation in the lungs, resulting in wheezing.
- Bronchiolitis – As the bronchioles, the smallest airways in the lungs swell due to viral infection, it results in wheezing.
- Active or Passive smoking – Cigarette smoke irritates the airways, causing them to swell and narrow down. This results in wheezing.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease – Irritation in the oesophagus due to indigestion can lead to coughing and wheezing.
- Vocal cord problems – An upper respiratory infection that causes the vocal cord to dysfunction, causing wheezing.
- Sleep apnoea – Sleep apnoea is caused due to abnormal upper airway pathology. This can trigger coughing and wheezing.
The most common of the wheezing symptoms is the presence of coarse whistling sounds in the lungs. It is produced on breathing and a doctor can hear the wheezing sound with the help of a stethoscope. In addition to this, there are a few visible symptoms of wheezing in lungs. These are:
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Bluish skin
Who is at High Risk of Wheezing?
Wheezing symptoms can surface in anyone. However, people who are more prone to allergies and infections have a higher risk of wheezing. Adults who smoke or have heart or lung disease can develop wheezing. Infants who have smaller airways are also at a higher risk of developing wheezing.
The wheezing treatment will depend upon the cause of the wheezing. A doctor will determine the cause of wheezing after asking you a few questions about your symptoms and what triggers the reaction.
Wheezing caused due to allergic reactions is best treated by avoiding the stimulant. A chest X-ray and blood test will be required to pick up cases of wheezing caused by lung disease and heart disorders.
Wheezing Treatment: Best Practices
Mild to moderate cases of wheezing can be treated at home through natural remedies for wheezing.
1. Drink Warm Fluids
As the airways narrow down and the mucus thickens, the wheezing symptoms begin to surface. Sipping on warm liquids helps reduce airway inflammation and swelling, clearing the breathing pathway. This helps reduce wheezing symptoms. Regular drinking of warm fluids can also correct the condition.
2. Inhale Moist Air
Just as drinking warm fluids smoothen the throat, inhaling moist and warm air helps clear the nasal passage. As the mucus in the airways loosens up, the congestion clears. Steam inhalation from a hot pot, a steamy shower, or the use of a humidifier in a room can help.
3. Include Vitamin C Supplements
Some respiratory conditions are often triggered due to nutritional deficiencies in the body. Vitamin C is really helpful in keeping up the body’s vigil and safeguarding it from infections. Taking more fruits and vegetables that are rich in Vitamin C can help provide relief from wheezing symptoms.
4. Balanced Diet
Apart from vitamin C, other minerals and vitamins play a crucial role in uplifting the body’s defence mechanism. This helps fight off viruses and infections that cause respiratory troubles. A well-balanced diet also helps build up stronger immunity.
5. Avoid Cold, Dry Weather
People who are at high risk of wheezing can experience worsening wheezing symptoms in cold and dry weather conditions. During extreme weather conditions, prefer exercising and working out indoors or in temperature-regulated environments.
6. Quit Smoking
Smoke irritates the airways. It causes them to swell and narrow down. Kicking the habit protects the body from respiratory ailments and other harmful diseases. Interestingly, both active and passive smoking have similar effects on airways. Therefore, cutting down on second-hand smoke is also important to ease wheezing symptoms.
7. Pursed Lip Breathing
Pursed lip breathing is a breathing technique which makes every breath more effective by slowing down its pace and making breathing more intentional. With longer, deeper breaths, the airways remain open for a longer span. This improves shortness of breath and helps correct wheezing.
Home Remedies for Wheezing
The Indian kitchen is a treasure trove when it comes to stocking items that can prove to be great home remedies for wheezing. These include:
1. Malabar Nut
Commonly known as Vasaka, boiling the leaves of the plant in water helps open up congested airways. It is also used as an effective remedy to correct wheezing caused due to lung disorders. Adding sugar or honey to the decoction makes it more palatable.
Tulsi is a household name. The plant has great medicinal value and is a common ingredient in cough syrups. Adding tulsi leaves to tea helps loosen up the mucus. It also helps in clearing airway passage and correcting wheezing.
Brihati is a perennial shrub with great anti-inflammatory properties. It has a high medicinal value and is an active ingredient in over-the-counter cough remedies. The leaves of the Brihati plant are used to make tea or can be boiled in water and consumed as a warm fluid. It functions by thinning the mucus and clearing the blocked airways.
Ginger is an extremely valuable spice. It is commonly used in Indian cooking. Adding ginger to tea or consuming ginger juice with honey helps soothe the throat and cure respiratory allergies that cause wheezing.
Pipli or long pepper is an instant relief for asthma. Consuming dried pipli powder with jaggery helps reduce airway swelling which causes wheezing in asthma and other allergies.
Also known as liquorice in English, mulethi helps provide relief to wheezing caused due to bronchial asthma. Mulethi, when consumed directly, or used in tea is one of the best home remedies for wheezing. Preparing herbal tea using mulethi and ginger can prove to be a magic potion.
When to Seek Medical Help?
Home remedies for wheezing are helpful and provide instant relief. But it is important to note that wheezing symptoms must not be ignored. In case the condition deteriorates or wheezing symptoms worsen, it is important to seek medical help immediately.
Important points to look out for are:
- Constant feeling of tightness in the chest
- Wheezing accompanied by fever
- Wheezing with continuous cough
- Shortness of breath or breathing difficulty
- Chest pain
- Bluish skin around mouth, skin, and nails
- Unexplained swelling in legs
- Swelling in lips and tongue
- Rapid breathing
- Change in voice
- Inability to speak
Wheezing symptoms indicate an underlying medical problem. Wheezing causes may range from food or seasonal allergy to more aggressive causes like lung and heart disorders. But whatever the cause, wheezing is marked by the narrowing down of airways which leads to creating coarse whistling sounds upon breathing.
The condition is typically picked up by a doctor by hearing the sounds produced by the lungs with the help of a stethoscope. While mild to moderate episodes of wheezing can be controlled and cured at home with the help of natural remedies for wheezing, severe cases of wheezing require immediate medical attention. Wheezing, if left untreated, can worsen and even prove fatal. Therefore, it is important to talk to your doctor to seek appropriate wheezing treatment.