Wheezing, or a squeaking or whistling sound when breathing, is a sign that the inflamed airways have narrowed even more. Asthma-related wheezing tends to happen more while exhaling than inhaling.
But wheezing can also be a sign of inflammation from many other conditions, notably chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), bronchitis, respiratory infections, allergies, emphysema, sleep apnea, heart failure, and even some medications. Noting whether or not your wheezing comes with other symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath can help you zero in on the cause of your symptoms, says Todd Rambasek, MD, an asthma specialist in Cleveland, Ohio.
Wheezing is more likely to be asthma when it persists, sometimes for years, especially in kids under the age of three. “Most pediatricians will be cautious about diagnosing asthma in really young children,” says Dr. Rizzo. “The first several years of life [periodic symptoms including wheezing] are more likely viral and not really asthmatic.”
Asthma is a more likely culprit in kids if one or both parents have a condition like eczema or hay fever and if one or both parents have allergies with asthma.