By Dr. Roshan Bonde

Wheezing takes place in the airway from your throat out into your lungs. The inflammation and narrowing that takes place in this airway result in wheezing. Although, recurrent wheezing can be a symptom of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), however, the whistling sound heard when breathing out can also indicate a viral infection. Viral wheeze often starts with a cough or a cold and commonly affects children under the age of 3 years. Such episodic wheezing can also be witnessed in adults that can last up to 2-4 days and longer. 

Symptoms of viral wheeze

Generally, viral wheeze starts with a cough and runny nose, that can last up to 4 days or more. Viral wheeze also known as preschool wheeze can lead to a fever. These are a few of the symptoms indicating episodic wheeze:

  • cough
  • fast breathing
  • extra noises when breathing in or out or both
  • very fast heartbeat
  • tummy sucking in with breathing
  • sucking in at the ribs when breathing
  • sucking in of throat
  • agitation
  • breathlessness prevents speaking in sentences

The connection between viral wheezing and asthma

Continual wheezing is often considered as the first sign of asthma. Most of the time, such scenarios are recurred by viral infections and the presence of airway bacteria. Most children with recurrent wheezing improve with time, but approximately one-third of infants with recurrent wheezing go on to develop asthma. Factors that aid the progression of recurrent wheezing to asthma include the kind of host, pathogen, and environment or lifestyle. Early onset of atopy is one of the integral host factors that help in developing wheezing into asthma. Also, children who become sensitized to multiple allergens in early life are at greatest risk. These associations are proven facts, but whether viral illnesses cause asthma is still debatable. Risk factors for wheezing illnesses include small lung size, prematurity, and exposure to tobacco smoke. 

Treatment of viral wheeze

Mostly, viral wheeze in both adults and children gets better with time without any treatment. However, if the symptoms persist, your health provider can prescribe the usage of a blue inhaler, the same medicine that is used to help with breathing in asthma. Often known as puffer, this medicine opens up the airways to let air move in and out of your lungs.


Asthma and viral wheezing are two different conditions that are closely related. Research has shown that viral infections are a common trigger for up to 80% of asthma exacerbations, particularly in children. Viral wheeze can cause structural changes in the airways that make them more susceptible to inflammation and narrowing in the future therefore, children with viral wheeze are at an increased risk of developing asthma. Inhaled corticosteroids are the mainstay of asthma treatment and are also effective in reducing the severity of viral wheeze. 

Early detection of viral wheezing can prevent the development of asthma at a later stage. 

(The author is a Medical adviser for Entod Pharmaceuticals. Please consult medical experts and health professionals before starting any therapy, medication and/or remedy. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the

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