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What is wheezing?

What causes wheezing in an asthmatic person? My teenage son has asthma for which he's taking steroids and other conditions, and he's always monitoring himself for wheezing and increased breath rate - but what is wheezing? Is it a part of the problem or just a symptom of the problem?
Asthma is a very common medical problem and also one of the most common reasons for people to seek medical care. The doctors who will be well qualified to discuss this issue in greater detail with you include your son's pediatrician. Asthma has two features which lead to symptoms. The first is constriction of the tubes in the lungs and the second is inflammation and the buildup of mucus in the tubes, which makes them narrower. Taken together these two processes lead to the symptoms of asthma, which include shortness of breath and wheezing. Wheezing is simply a noise that one can hear when the mucus plugging and the constriction in the tubes of the lungs gets to the point where the passages are tight enough to hear the air movement. Monitoring for wheezing is an important part of assessing whether the asthma is under control, as is monitoring for cough, shortness of breath, difficulty with exercise, and other similar symptoms. As always the diagnosis and the management of your son's particular concerns will require a physical examination by his personal physician. Setting up an office visit with his pediatrician might be advised.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.

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