Wheezing in Babies

by Sam Malone


Wheezing can be described as a difficulty in breathing, accompanied by a whistling sound. At times wheezes are so mild, they can be heard only by a stethoscope, but in some cases they can be loud enough to be heard by the naked ear. Most of us have faced this problem at some point or the other during our lives, for various reasons. Wheezing in babies is also quite common as around 50% of the infants in the US experience it at least once in the first year of their life. In fact, because of their narrow airways, babies and infants are more susceptible to this problem than older kids.

Causes


Most kids experience wheezing when their airways become narrow due to a swelling. When air passes through a narrowed airway it has the tendency to produce a whistling sound. Wheezing is neither a disease, nor a disorder; rather, it is a symptom that could indicate different problems, such as:

  • Allergies: The exposure to common allergens like dust, pet dander, mould and pollen could cause your child’s airways to swell up, which often results in breathing difficulties. In addition to wheezing, allergies will also cause your kid to experience symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose, nasal congestion, a rash and water eyes.
  • Asthma: Children living in developed countries are at a high risk of this chronic respiratory infection. Asthma causes your child’s airways to swell up, become narrow and produce extra mucus. Apart from frequent wheezing, this condition can cause your child to suffer from a cough that worsens during the night.
  • Bronchiolitis: This common viral infection, which is usually caused by the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), has the tendency to mimic asthma. Bronchiolitis affects the bronchioles, which are the tiny airways in the respiratory system. The swelling in the airways causes your child to experience breathing problems. Some of the other symptoms of this infection are rapid breathing, cough and fever.
  • Croup: An inflammation in the larynx (vocal cords) or the trachea (windpipe) can cause your child to experience a harsh and repetitive cough, which sounds like a bark. This condition is called croup and it is more common in kids below the age of 5. In addition to the wheezing and coughing, your child may undergo symptoms like fever and hoarseness.
  • Food Allergies: Wheezing in infants after a meal could be an indication of an allergic reaction towards certain foods. Many kids are allergic to foods like milk, dairy products, eggs, nuts and wheat. Food allergies are also characterized by a skin rash, swelling around the mouth, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Pneumonia: Babies & infants can catch this lung infection after being exposed to various microorganisms. Some of the other common signs that are noticed during this condition include fever, coughing, chills, congestion, breathing problems, appetite loss and pain.
  • Swallowing of Foreign Objects: Very often, kids swallow toys or items that get lodged in their throat and cause an obstruction. This is a medical emergency, so rush your child to a doctor in case this happens.

Some of these causes of wheezing in kids are quite serious and need to be treated by a doctor immediately. On the other hand, some of these conditions aren’t a major cause for concern and can be treated easily at home, with the help of simple and natural home remedies.

Treatment


Self-diagnosis and treatment for wheezing in infants and children is quite dangerous and should be strictly avoided. It is always important to determine the exact cause of wheezing, so that the underlying cause can be addressed. Your child may need to undergo a few tests and exams for this purpose.

Medical treatment for wheezing caused by asthma or bronchiolitis could include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antihistamine pills
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Bronchodilators
  • Corticosteroids
  • Prescription nasal sprays

If the wheezing is caused by simple problems like allergies or congestion, your doctor may advise you to use simple remedies, especially in the case of newborns and infants. Given below are some of the most commonly recommended newborn congestion wheezing remedies:

  • Elevation: Having your baby sleep upright can help relieve congestion to a great extent, which in turn reduces the wheezing. Place a brick below your baby’s bed, or a high pillow under his mattress, so that his head remains higher than the rest of his body.
  • Filtering: Place some cheesecloth over the heat outlet in each room, especially the baby’s. This filter catches animal dander, dust and pollen, before they get circulated in the air and cause allergies. Also make sure that you dust and vacuum your house on a regular basis.
  • Fluids: The congestion in your baby’s chest can be loosed with the help of fluids. Make sure that your baby drinks a higher than usual amount of water (preferably warm) and milk throughout the day.  
  • Humidifier: Add some moisture to the air, by placing a cool-mist humidifier or a steam-emitting vaporizer to your baby’s room. This helps relieve congestion to a great extent. However, make sure to clean the humidifying or vaporizing device regularly, or they can worsen your little one’s allergies.
  • Steam inhalation: Fill your bathroom with steam, by turning on the hot shower and keeping the door shut. Take your baby into the steam-filled bathroom and sit with him there for the next 10 to 15 minutes. Keep patting your little one’s back while you sit there to relieve congestion and make breathing a bit easier.

These home remedies for relieving congestion and wheezing in newborns are quite safe if used correctly. However, it is best to check with a doctor before trying any of them.

References

  1. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcpdf.nsf/ByPDF/Coughing_and_wheezing_in_children/$File/Coughing_and_wheezing_in_children.pdf

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
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