My Child's Breathing

When is Wheezing
Not Just Wheezing?

How can a parent know when their child is just congested or when he or she is actually having breathing problems? The signs can be both obvious and subtle. Continue browsing to learn more about what to look & listen for.

Normal Breathing

When we breathe, air goes in through our nose or mouth. It goes down our throats to our windpipe (trachea) and enters our airways, or breathing tubes that are in our lungs. At the ending of the airways are little air sacs called "alveoli" and that is where the body takes the oxygen that will go into the blood and go to where the body needs it.

These different parts of the body that we use to breathe are called the "respiratory system".

Normal breathing is quiet, easy, allows a baby/child to laugh, cry or speak and eat between breaths. May hear some gurgly noses from the throat that do not bother the baby.

Normal Lungs
What does

Abnormal Breathing
Sound Like?

Babies and children often get colds. Most colds are not concerning and can be managed at home. A normal cold may look like runny nose, stuffy nose, cough more in the day but also at night, breathing is easy.

The next time your child has a cold or upper respiratory illness, review this list to see if your child may have any of these symptoms that may be signs of breathing problems. If the wheezing is recurrent, please consult your family physician.

Wheezing is a whistling sound made while you breathe out (exhale). It’s heard most clearly when you exhale, but in severe cases, it can be heard when you inhale. It’s caused by narrowed airways which can happen from tightening of the airway muscles (which responds to the reliever medicines like salbutamol/Ventolin) or inflammation of the airways from infections or allergy exposure, (which gets better with controller medicines) or both. High pitched wheezes are sometimes called rhonchi. With wheezing you can often see a tugging in at the neck or under the ribs on breathing in ("belly breathing").

Stridor is a medical term for "noisy breathing". It is a high-pitched sound on breathing in (inhaling) caused by an obstruction or narrowing in your child's upper airway (the trachea). It can sound like musical gasping. With stridor you can often see a tugging in at the neck.

Crackles (sometimes called rales) come in two flavours: fine and coarse.

  • Fine crackles sound like salt heated on a frying pan or the sound of rolling your hair between your fingers next to your ear.
  • Coarse crackles sound like pouring water out of a bottle or like ripping open Velcro.

Croup is a barky cough and hoarse voice caused by a virus infection of the voicebox (larynx). The croupy cough is tight, low-pitched, and barky (like a barking seal)

Wheezing is a whistling sound made while you breathe out (exhale). It’s heard most clearly when you exhale, but in severe cases, it can be heard when you inhale. It’s caused by narrowed airways which can happen from tightening of the airway muscles (which responds to the reliever medicines like salbutamol/Ventolin) or inflammation of the airways from infections or allergy exposure, (which gets better with controller medicines) or both. High pitched wheezes are sometimes called rhonchi. With wheezing you can often see a tugging in at the neck or under the ribs on breathing in ("belly breathing").

WATCH  

Stridor is a medical term for "noisy breathing". It is a high-pitched sound on breathing in (inhaling) caused by an obstruction or narrowing in your child's upper airway (the trachea). It can sound like musical gasping. With stridor you can often see a tugging in at the neck.

WATCH  

Crackles (sometimes called rales) come in two flavours: fine and coarse.

  • Fine crackles sound like salt heated on a frying pan or the sound of rolling your hair between your fingers next to your ear.
  • Coarse crackles sound like pouring water out of a bottle or like ripping open Velcro.

Croup is a barky cough and hoarse voice caused by a virus infection of the voicebox (larynx). The croupy cough is tight, low-pitched, and barky (like a barking seal)

What now?

What Should I Do With
This Information?

The information provided on this website is for educational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. If you have concerns, please seek advice from a professional medical professional.