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What's The Wheeze

November 25th, 2019

Noisy Breathing in children can be a scary thing for parents, especially if it accompanies labored breathing or comes out of the blue. Here’s a quick cheat sheet on some common causes of noisy breathing, their symptoms, and their treatments - including when to come see us!


RSV, which stands for respiratory syncytial virus, is an illness of the nose, throat, and lungs that most children will be diagnosed with at least once before they turn two. Most RSV cases are diagnosed during late fall, winter, and early spring but in our region, RSV can occur in any month. RSV causes symptoms similar to a common cold when it is in the upper respiratory tract, which means children may have a fever, cough, and congestion. However, RSV transitions into bronchiolitis when it moves into the lower respiratory tract, causing wheezing and fast breathing. RSV symptoms can be reduced by a cool mist humidifier and nasal spray combined with suction. These treatments help to remove the mucus in the upper airway. If a fever accompanies the illness, acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be given to children older than 6 months. Most often RSV will resolve by itself like the common cold. But if you have concerns about your child’s ability to breathe, it is important to give us a call or come in immediately. Often the first sign of respiratory worsening is your infant’s refusal to drink. If he can’t breathe through his nose, he will refuse to have his mouth obstructed. We may prescribe aerosolized bronchodilators if his condition is affecting his lungs.


Another cause of upper airway noise in children is croup. Croup is caused when the voice box and windpipe swell, which causes your child’s airway below the vocal cords to narrow. It is caused by a viral infection and makes breathing noisy and difficult. Most croup occurs in children less than five. Croup can occur year round but is most often seen in fall and winter. Croup can be scary for children and parents because children will often wake up in the middle of the night with a barky cough and a sound on inspiration called stridor. It is one of the scariest sounds your child can make. Remain calm and take your child immediately into a warm misty shower, to the freezer to breathe cold air or outside to breathe cold air. You will be amazed how quickly these tricks will work, and if there is no improvement within five or ten minutes, please call us or go to the ER.


One of the common acute and chronic causes of wheezing is asthma. Asthma is both inflammation and constriction of the airway. Asthma symptoms can be worsened when your child is exposed to triggers, such as infection, pollen, exercise, and even stress. It can be controlled with medications that treat both inflammation and constriction. If your child has asthma, make sure that you discuss her asthma action plan with us.

When noisy breathing occurs, we are here to help. Children’s Diagnostic Center has regular office hours. Call for an appointment or visit our night clinic for sick kids and concerned parents after 5 pm. We are always happy to address any concerns you may have about your child’s health!

Posted by Beacon Health Alliance | Topic: Pediatrics
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