What causes wheezing & coughing?

Written by genevieve van wyden
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Wheezing and coughing have many causes. If you or your child cough with no obvious illness, you may have a chronic health problem. Wheezing is one symptom of several disorders and diseases. If you or your child wheeze frequently, speak to your doctor so she can conduct tests to determine the cause.

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Definition of Wheezing

Wheezing is a whistling sound that can be heard when your child is trying to breathe. Her airways are narrowing and may be further obstructed by excess mucous. As the air moves through the narrowed airways, it "whistles" as it passes the obstruction. You can hear the wheeze as your child is exhaling, but she also might wheeze while trying to inhale.

Asthma

Your child will cough and wheeze because of asthma. When airways react to a trigger, they will narrow and produce excessive mucous. Your child will cough in an attempt to clear her airways and breathe more comfortably, and she also might wheeze. Many medical professionals now call asthma Reactive Airway Disease, or RAD, which is a more accurate description.

Bronchial Infection

Bronchial infections, or bronchitis, can cause coughing as your child attempts to clear mucous from his lungs. If he already has RAD or another chronic lung condition, his symptoms will be worse with bronchitis; he may wheeze worse than he normally does. Make sure you have a rescue inhaler handy to use if he cannot breathe.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, can experience the same narrowing of the airways. With COPD, your airways are permanently damaged because of chronic bronchitis or emphysema. When you exert yourself, for example, walking around your neighbourhood, you tire easily because your lungs cannot get enough oxygen in and they cannot expel all of the carbon dioxide your body builds up. You also might wheeze and cough as you try to open your airways to breathe more comfortably.

Gastro-oseophageal Reflux Disease

With Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, GERD, you might wheeze when acid has refluxed high enough in your oesophagus that it enters your throat. If this happens when you are asleep, you mighty wake up gasping, coughing and wheezing. These symptoms resemble asthma and can be mistaken for it. If you have been tested for asthma (RAD) and the tests were negative, ask to be tested for GERD.

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