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Wheezing is a high-pitched, whistling sound that is made while breathing, and is often a symptom of a chronic respiratory condition. Wheezing is commonly caused by a narrowing of the airways that restricts the movement of air when breathing. This narrowing of the airways may be the result of an inflammation caused by asthma, a viral or bacterial infection, or an allergic reaction. It may also be caused by an obstruction of the airway caused by a tumor or an object that may have been inhaled.

Often times, wheezing is a symptom of an underlying illness that may include:

  • Emphysema
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Lung cancer
  • Sleep apnea

To determine the cause of wheezing, chest X-rays and lung function tests may be performed. Treatment for wheezing varies and often focuses on addressing the underlying condition that is causing the breathing difficulties. In some cases, wheezing may be relieved through medication or the use of an inhaler. In severe cases, a breathing tube may be necessary. Emergency medical assistance may be required if the wheezing is accompanied by shortness of breath, disorientation, a blue tint to the skin, or if the individual has had contact with a known allergen.

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