Wheezing or Bronchoconstriction: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Wheezing is a whistling noise made during breathing. It occurs when the small airways, or bronchial tubes, that lead to your lungs swell or contract (spasm) and become narrow. This narrowing is called bronchoconstriction. When your airways constrict, it is hard for air to pass through and this makes it hard for you to breathe.

Wheezing and bronchoconstriction can be caused by many problems, including:

  • An infection such as the flu or a cold.
  • Allergies such as hay fever.
  • Diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • Smoking.

Treatment for your wheezing depends on what is causing the problem. Your wheezing may get better without treatment. But you may need to pay attention to things that cause your wheezing and avoid them. Or you may need medicine to help treat the wheezing and to reduce the swelling or to relieve spasms in your lungs.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It is also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicine exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicine your doctor prescribes.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Breathe moist air from a humidifier, hot shower, or sink filled with hot water. This may help ease your symptoms and make it easier for you to breathe.
  • If you have congestion in your nose and throat, drinking plenty of fluids, especially hot fluids, may help relieve your symptoms. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • If you have mucus in your airways, it may help to breathe deeply and cough.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. Smoking can make your wheezing worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Avoid things that may cause your wheezing. These may include colds, smoke, air pollution, dust, pollen, pets, cockroaches, stress, and cold air.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You cough up yellow, dark brown, or bloody mucus (sputum).
  • You have new or worse shortness of breath.
  • Your wheezing is not getting better or it gets worse after you start taking your medicine.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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