4 Disorders That Can Cause A Wheezing Cough

There are several respiratory ailments or disorders that can cause a wheezing cough to develop. The wheezing sound associated with the coughing is the result of air being exhaled through partially obstructed lower airways. The obstruction can be due to swelling, inflammation, or an accumulation of mucus. Often the obstruction is somewhat temporary, and does not present a danger. When that is the case, the cough can usually be effectively treated with a home remedy. At other times, the disorder causing the coughing may require medical attention, and even a hospital visit in some cases. What are the four most common disorders that can cause such a cough? They are asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).


Asthma is a disorder in which the lower airways swell, thereby constricting the flow of air, which can lead to a wheezing cough. Asthma attacks are quite often caused by breathing in substances called allergens. Allergens cause the immune system to overreact, causing the lining of the air passages to become inflamed, and the breathing tubes to swell and constrict. Coughing or wheezing may be only temporary, or may last for several days in some instances. If the air passages become overly restricted, the situation can become serious, and even life-threatening. It's not the cough of course that is the danger, but the swelling and constriction. Wheezing very often comes in cycles or episodes, rather than being an on-going symptom. Wheezing is often worse during the night, but it can also be triggered by exercise. Those who are in constant danger of suffering asthma attacks usually have dilators at the ready, the use of which often can cause the wheezing to stop.


When the main air passages of the lungs become inflamed due to a viral respiratory infection, it leads to a condition known as bronchitis, one of the symptoms of which can be a wheezing cough. It is mostly infants and the elderly who are most susceptible to this disorder, although it can strike anyone, especially smokers and those having a heart or lung disease or disorder. While bronchitis is not the same as asthma, it can be triggered by the same allergens that can bring about an asthma attack in some people. Bronchitis usually goes away on its own. Antibiotics will be of no help in treating bronchitis since it is caused by a viral infection. A doctor may prescribe an antibiotic however if the condition persists and the presence of a secondary bacterial infection is suspected.


A wheezing cough can also be one of the symptoms of pneumonia. Here, the problem is not with the lower airways, but is due to an infection within the lung. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or a foreign element which has been introduced into the lung, and has caused an infection to occur. Pneumonia is usually treated with antibiotics, as most types are due to a bacterial infection. Coughing is actually encouraged, as it helps to get rid of mucus which has accumulated in the lungs, and also helps clear the airways.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

A fourth potential cause of a wheezing cough is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), of which there are two main types, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. When one suffers from chronic bronchitis, it is because the lungs or airways contain an excessive amount of mucus This mucus must be constantly coughed up, which can lead to irritation of the breathing passages. The other type of COPD, and the more serious type, is emphysema. Emphysema is a condition in which the lung has been partially destroyed, more often than not due to smoking. Constantly inhaling dust, such as coal dust, can also cause emphysema. Whereas chronic bronchitis tends more to involve constant coughing or wheezing, the main symptom of emphysema is difficulty in breathing, since lung capacity has been significantly diminished. Coughing and wheezing can also be symptoms of emphysema. Neither type of COPD is curable. At best, medication can help relieve the symptoms. If a person is a smoker, and is suffering from chronic bronchitis, it is imperative they stop smoking before the lungs become permanently damaged in the event emphysema sets in, with its attendant breathing problems.

Of the four main contributors to this type of cough, a temporary attack of acute bronchitis is usually of least concern, and while bronchitis can be chronic, in most cases it is not. It is also the easiest of the four disorders to treat. COPD can be the most difficult to treat, whether one is suffering from chronic bronchitis or emphysema, and it is incurable. For most of us, a wheezing cough is something we seldom experience, or if we have, we most likely experienced it when very young. When it does occur,   it is often not much more than an inconvenience. If you should suffer an attack of coughing of this type, it's best to remain standing or sitting, rather than lying down, which can often make the symptoms worse. Applying a hot pack to the chest can provide relief, as can inhaling steam.