Wheezing is a very common respiratory problem. The respiratory tube or the breathing airway is blocked and narrowed down due to mucus or some other foreign object. When you inhale and exhale, the blocked airway produces a whistling sound. This is called wheezing. The obstructed air path makes breathing a difficult issue. Wheezing can be an acute or chronic problem. Many people struggle to breathe normally. People suffering from wheezing may be seen often trying to breathe faster to exhale and inhale air. While the mild episodes of wheezing can be cured at home, it may lead to a chronic condition that needs proper medical intervention. How to stop wheezing? The best way is to determine the underlying cause of wheezing first. And then move forward with the right remedy to eliminate the underlying cause of wheezing.
What Causes Wheezing?
Wheezing is caused by many factors. It can be a sign of a certain health condition and can also be triggered due to some health problem or by a short-term illness. Wheezing may occur as a sign of the following conditions. These are basically short term conditions or illnesses.
- Anaphylaxis – An allergic reaction that blocks, congests and irritates the airway.
- A persistent or a frequent cough and cold
- Inflammation, irritation, constriction or congestion of the vocal cords.
- Inhaling a foreign object
- Infection of the respiratory tract
- Smoking and even second-hand smoking
- Acidity or Acid Reflux
- Pollution, pollen/environment prone to allergens
Some people may wheeze instantly when they inhale something strange like new perfume, room freshener, etc.
Wheezing can also be a sign of an underlying health condition:
- Asthma- Wheezing is closely associated with asthma. In fact, asthma is the major cause of wheezing. Most of the asthmatic patients suffer from wheezing.
- Pulmonary Edema – A condition characterized by inflammation caused due to the accumulation of fluids in the respiratory tract, air sacs or mucus in lungs and breathing pathway. This leads to wheezing too.
- Construction of the bronchial tubes due to certain medications
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – COPD, a chronic disease that makes breathing very hard.
In addition to the above causes, anxiety disorders and chronic stress are also associated with wheezing. Too much anxiety leads to severe wheezing.
How to Stop Wheezing?
Depending upon the underlying cause of the wheezing, you should consider various solutions to stop wheezing.
Regardless of the exact cause of wheezing, it can be safely said that it is always caused due to the obstructed airway (all the factors make the airway narrow or blocked!) So, clearing the respiratory tract is the first step to stop wheezing.
1. Inhale Steam – Quick Relief from Wheezing Naturally
The best, easiest and probably the quickest way to stop wheezing is inhaling the steam. Inhaling steam unblocks the clogged respiratory tract, decongests the mucus and clears your breathing airway.
How to inhale steam?
- Take a wide mouthed vessel and add three to four glasses of water.
- Let the water come to a boil.
- Remove the vessel from flame when the water begins to evaporate. In other words, when you are able to see steam coming out of it.
- Place the vessel in a small closed room.
- You may also need a blanket or a shawl to cover yourself and the vessel to inhale the steam.
- Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil or peppermint oil to the boiled water.
- Cover your head and hold your face closer to the vessel (at a safe distance though), which enables you to inhale the steam.
- You may suffocate mildly, and sweat out a lot.
- Don’t show your face directly to the steam. If your facial skin is sensitive, it might damage or burn the skin. Keep the face at quite a distance in such case.
- Just make yourself comfortable to breathe in the steam.
Inhale the steam for 3 to 5 minutes. You can take a break of a few seconds when you find it hard to breathe the steam. You will find great relief instantly from wheezing.
2. Consume a lot of Warm Liquids to Stop Wheezing
Start consuming more warm liquids than solid foods to get rid of wheezing. Consumption of warm and soothing liquids relaxes the stressed airways. Frequent hydration too can clear away the blockage and even prevent recurrent episodes of wheezing.
Some of the warm liquid that you can have to stop wheezing include:
1. Warm Water: Drink more water when you suffer from wheezing. Generally, when you catch a cold and cough, your body needs more liquids to expel the mucus out of your body. Drink at least 5 or 6 glasses more than your regular water consumption.
Drinking warm water loosens the hard mucus blocking the airways. It also prevents mucus from blocking the respiratory tract.
2. Herbal Teas: Herbal teas are always the best bet for respiratory illnesses. Ginger tea, chamomile tea, fennel tea, etc. are the ideal options to soothe the throat, breathing pathway and lungs.
Add honey instead of sugar or palm sugar to enhance the soothing effect.
3. Hot and Clear Soups: You can indulge your senses in hot soups to stop wheezing. Add ginger, garlic, a pod or two of cloves, and black pepper to make it more effective.
Stay away from taking creamy soups or cream based soups. A cream is a dairy product and it can produce more mucus as well as trigger allergy.
4. Porridge: Instead of taking solid foods, replace one or two portions of solid food with hot porridge. Porridge is a comfort food and it can help you stop wheezing.
5. Coffee: Drink a cup of hot coffee to dilate the airways. It makes breathing easier and stops wheezing in just a few minutes.
However, the caffeine may dehydrate you and you should drink a plenty of liquids or water. Don’t have more than two cups of coffee a day though!
Avoid taking dairy products as it may trigger the allergy and accumulate mucus in your respiratory tract.
3. Eat Spicy Foods to Get Rid of Wheezing
This is a great news for spicy food lovers. Spicy foods can cut through the congestion and can stop wheezing almost instantly. Whether or not you love spicy foods, try something spicy. Eat something cooked with cayenne pepper or spicy red chilli powder.
Cayenne helps the body regulate more fluids and aids in clearing the blockages. It helps in improved breathing too.
4. Warm Compress for Chest, Shoulders and Back to Stop Wheezing
Remember, your mother or grandma applying the ‘vapor rub’ on your chest and back when you suffered from cold and blocked nose during childhood?
When you suffer from wheezing, it affects the muscles and nerves in the chest, shoulders and back. Giving a warm compress on chest and back relaxes your upper body and provides relief from breathing difficulty.
Soak a cloth in hot water and place it on your chest, upper back and shoulders, for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat it twice or thrice a day and you can find a lot of improvement in your wheezing. You will be able to breathe easily.
5. Self-healing of Wheezing through acupressure
There are many pressure points in the body which can provide quick relief from the nasal block and stop wheezing.
It indicates the small vertical space between the base of the nose and the borderline of the upper lip. Press the philtrum with gentle pressure, using your thumb or finger, for 1 minute.
2. Middle of the chest
Press the middle point of the chest for 20 to 30 seconds. You might experience mild pain when you press the point. It provides relief from chest congestion and aids in improved breathing.
3. Collar bone
Find the small hollow near the collar bone, which is located next to the breastbone. This point provides relief from asthma problems, chest congestion, blocked respiratory tract, cough and other breathing problems. Wheezing is one of such problems.
4. A base of the thumb
Press the base of the thumb to get relief from congestion and to stop wheezing. This is an easy point to locate and you can simply press it anytime when you feel congested and experience difficulty in breathing.
When you are not sure about the exact location of the specific pressure point, just rub your fingers or massage in circular motion in the respective areas.
These were some quick solutions to stop wheezing naturally. However, if you have recurrent episodes of wheezing, you should consider changing your lifestyle and seeking medical intervention.
6. Use an Inhaler or Nasal Drops to Stop Wheezing (Use with Caution)
Similar to inhaling steam, using nasal drops or inhaler comes in handy in many instances. It stops wheezing with instant effect and helps you breathe with ease.
However, frequent use of inhaler is not recommended. Also, using nasal drops and inhaler is not recommended for kids and elderly without a prescription from a physician. In case of emergency, when you cannot look out for other remedies, you can use the inhalers.
Remember, regular use of inhalers may become a habit and upon continuous usage, you may not be able to stop wheezing without the drops or inhalers.
Ayurvedic Remedies for Wheezing
Ayurveda has potential remedies to stop and prevent wheezing. Following are some of the simple ayurvedic remedies to stop wheezing.
- Heat a dry turmeric rhizome and grind it to powder (you can also bake it). Add two teaspoons of turmeric powder to a glass of hot water and consume it.
- Dry roast a pod of garlic, crush it, add with hot water and drink it.
- Dry roast long pepper (Thippili), crush it and drink with hot water. (About 1 teaspoon of long pepper). Long pepper soup is the best remedy for asthma and many respiratory problems.
- Drink licorice tea. Licorice is a dried spice used to cure many health conditions. It is available in ayurvedic shops. Add licorice in the same as you add ginger when you brew tea.
How to Manage Wheezing and Prevent its Recurrence
Understanding the causes or triggers of wheezing is essential to get rid of wheezing completely. Analyze your lifestyle and you can easily avoid these triggers.
1. Keep your environment clean and dust free
A clean and dust-free environment is the key to preventing allergic reactions. Living in an unclean environment gradually builds up toxins in the body and affect the airways.
While you cannot expect a pure environment outdoors when you travel or go to public places, you can keep your indoors purified. Remove all the irritants from the air, which includes perfumes, cleaning liquids, etc.
- Sweep, dust and vacuum your home regularly and ensure that the atmosphere is clean and tidy.
- Use an air purifier, at least, in the room where you spend most of your time.
- Quit smoking or don’t expose yourself to second-hand smoking.
2. Check for allergens
Keeping your environment clean and free from allergens is the first step. However, there can be many allergic triggers beyond the home environment. Inhaling any allergen or pollen also leads to inflammation of the respiratory tract, which leads to wheezing. Identify what allergen triggers your wheezing and avoid those.
3. Avoid Food Allergy
Food allergy is quite dangerous and many times, it needs immediate medical attention. If you develop any allergic reaction to certain foods, make sure you avoid them completely. In case of frequent episodes of wheezing or respiratory problems, make sure to get a diagnosis about the foods that cause allergic reactions. Get an allergy test from a doctor to stop wheezing and prevent recurrence.
Other Allergic Reactions that may cause Wheezing
- If you have pets at home, sweeping the home every day is essential to remove the pet dander and fur, which is also a major allergen trigger.
- Avoid wearing weird scents, perfumes and room fresheners. Stick to the ones you are comfortable with.
- If any member in your family suffers from wheezing and is prone to allergy or subsequent breathing problems, use the hypoallergenic filters in the cooling and heating system. It traps the respiratory irritants.
4. Prevent Exposure to Extreme Climates
Dry and cold climates trigger wheezing. The windy atmosphere and freezing cold seasons directly or indirectly affect the airway and lead to wheezing.
Don’t expose yourself to cold weather. Wear a scarf when you drive or travel, especially when it is cold and foggy. The cold air constricts the vessels and affects the lungs, which stress out the airways.
Similarly, cover your face when you are exposed to dry and windy climate.
5. Improve your Immunity
When your immune system is compromised, you are prone to seasonal allergies and frequent recurrence of cold. This often leads to wheezing. So, improve your immunity.
- Eat a lot of healthy foods. Include foods from all sources like fruits and vegetables.
- Eat natural white foods like garlic, nuts and seeds, cauliflower, etc. They are immune boosters.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise can be very mild such as walking. It is all about managing yourself and staying physically active. It has a great role to play in boosting your immunity.
- Fall in love with sunshine. Yes, spend at least 15 minutes in the morning sunshine. It is a key to prevent a lot of diseases and not only wheezing.
- Get sufficient sleep and rest whenever you need.
- De-Stress yourself.
6. Practice Breathing Exercise to prevent Wheezing
If you want to strengthen your lungs and prevent wheezing completely, just practice some breathing exercises regularly. Regular practice of deep breathing keeps your mind calm, cleanse your respiratory organs and strengthen your lungs.
Simple breathing exercise
- Sit in silence and take a deep breath (deeply inhale and exhale slowly) for 10 to 15 minutes a day.
- Just make sure that the breathing is rhythmic.
Alternate nostril breathing exercise – Pranayam
This is one of the simplest breathing exercises taught in Yoga and which has wonderful benefits. It helps to channelize the body, creates a balance in the body, soothes the mind and strengthens the lungs.
- Sit on the floor with legs folded.
- Fold the index finger and middle finger of the right hand half way.
- Hold the right nostril of the nose with the right thumb (of the right hand).
- Exhale through the left nostril (Always start with exhaling and end with exhaling on left nostril)
- Now inhale air through the left nostril.
- Close the left nostril with ring and index finger.
- Exhale the air through right nostril by opening the right nostril. You had been holding it with right thumb till now.
- Inhale through the right nostril, close it with thumb and exhale it through the left nostril.
(Inhale and exhale – left nostril / Inhale exhale – right nostril)
Do this for 15 to 20 minutes a day. It cleanses the whole body and rejuvenates yours from head to toe. Not only will it stop and prevent wheezing but will make you healthy from inside out!
What should you do immediately when you start wheezing?
- Take slow deep breathes. Don’t rush to breath.
- Get some oxygen. Go outdoors and relax. Anxiety is also a cause of wheezing.
- Get a hot bath.
- Consume a teaspoonful of honey and drink a glass of warm water.
- Avoid eating dairy, sugar or other mucus triggering foods.
When to Seek Medical Care to Stop Wheezing?
Sometimes, you may need medical intervention to get rid of wheezing. You should know when to seek medical care.
When the symptoms persist for several days or don’t improve with home remedies
Wheezing may transform into a life-threatening condition. If wheezing doesn’t stop in a few days after trying the home remedies or using the nasal drops etc. you should seek a diagnosis from a doctor.
The doctor will examine your breathing pattern and lungs with a stethoscope, and may also ask you to get a breathing test. Make sure you know what triggers lead to wheezing. In addition, the doctor may also call for blood test and x-ray to diagnose the cause of wheezing.
When you experience difficulty to breathe due to wheezing
When you cannot breathe properly and suffocate due to poor breathing caused by wheezing, seek emergency medical treatment.
Medical Treatment to Stop Wheezing
Medical treatment to stop wheezing focuses on two ways. If the airway is inflamed, anti-inflammatory tablets or shots are provided to the patients to reduce the inflammation. It also removes the excess mucus blocking the airways.
The second method is about opening the breathing tract and tubes using the medications that can act quickly. Bronchodilators are often used to stop moderate to severe wheezing instantly. It also reduces a cough and soothes the respiratory tract.
Your doctor may treat you with,
- Feeding oxygen / artificial ventilation
- Nebulizer treatments
- Asthma control pills
- Bronchodilator inhaler when the wheezing and cold is caused by a bacterial infection
- Oral anti-histamines and/or anti-histamine shots – for wheezing caused by allergy
Those who wheeze due to anxiety disorders should seek professional care, medicines and psychological counsel therapy to get rid of anxiety.
How to Stop Wheezing in a Baby and Children?
Wheezing can be a daunting condition in babies and children. Although wheezing, cold and cough are common illnesses in younger ones, they are always distressing conditions. In children, wheezing is more commonly associated with a cough and cold, allergic reaction to certain fragrances or aroma, but not asthma.
- When your baby suffers from wheezing, apply a warm cloth or apply vapor rub on chest and back to soothe the baby.
- Feed the baby with warm liquids in fewer quantities.
- Don’t give any medicines without prescription of a doctor.
Take your child immediately to a doctor, if you notice any of the following conditions:
- Too much trouble in breathing, rapid or irregular breathing.
- Fever accompanied by wheezing
- When the color of the skin turns dark or blue
- When the child appears exhausted
- When the child refuses to eat or drink anything
- When any of the nostrils is completely blocked
- When the baby chokes
How to Stop Wheezing in Elderly?
Similar to children, wheezing may attack elders frequently. Often, wheezing is accompanied by some kind of respiratory illness in elders. So, wheezing in elders is a sign of a health condition to look for. Since it is recommended not to go for self-medication or OTC drugs without a doctor’s prescription for wheezing in elders, you can buy a vaporizer. Vaporizers enable peaceful sleep in elders at night.
A Long-Term Approach to Stop Wheezing
People who wheeze should always focus on long-term relief, not short-term remedies. For instance, COPD, asthma, and other chronic respiratory diseases need long-term treatments and solutions to get rid of wheezing. When the underlying condition is not addressed, wheezing cannot be stopped. If you don’t treat asthma but wheezing, you will subsequently suffer from wheezing in the near future, again and again. Don’t take any medicines or discontinue medicines without the consent of your doctor in case of chronic conditions associated with wheezing.