Why Is My Baby Wheezing?
The term “wheeze” is used to describe the cough or other sounds made by babies during their first few months of life. A baby’s lungs are still developing and they do not yet have all the airways (breathing passages) fully developed. When a baby breathes in, some of the air passes through small holes called alveoli. These tiny holes allow oxygenated blood to flow back into your body. If too much oxygen enters the body, it can cause problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung damage and even death.
Babies may make a loud noise called a “cough.” This is usually caused by gasping for breath. Gasps are often heard before the normal cough occurs. Sometimes gasps occur at night while sleeping or just before waking up from sleep.
Babies sometimes cry out because they feel sick or uncomfortable.
What Causes Baby Coughing?
A baby’s lungs are very delicate and vulnerable to injury. Any type of trauma, such as a fall or sudden movement, can injure the lungs. For example:
Being shaken around by another person causes the lungs to hurt.
Sitting on a hard surface like concrete or asphalt can cause them to hurt more if the baby is sitting on its bottom instead of its sides.
Babies can get coughs and colds just like adults can, though the coughs tend to be longer and more severe.
Babies do not have a lot of control over their breathing until they are slightly older. This can cause them to cough or gasp for air when they are asleep or even cause them to stop breathing.
What Should I Do?
If your baby has a cough or seems to be wheezing, you should call your pediatrician immediately. If the coughing interrupts the baby’s breathing, the pediatrician may call for emergency transport to the hospital. This is especially true if the baby is less than three months of age.
If your baby is less than three months old and has a cough that lasts longer than two weeks, it may be a sign of something more severe.
If you think that the baby’s cough is productive (green, yellow or clear fluid), then it may be a sign of a bacterial infection such as pneumonia.
If your baby is coughing and appears very fussy or colicky, he or she may have intestinal gas. You may hear a “pop” when the gas releases. If this is the case, allow the baby to sit in a warm bath for a few minutes before burping him or her. If the baby is gassy, he or she may pass gas more than usual.
You should also call your pediatrician if:
The cough persists for more than two weeks.
The cough sounds like “whoop,” “wheeze” or “click” noises. These are signs of more serious conditions.
The baby has difficulty breathing or turns blue around the lips and mouth.
Breathing problems occur during sleep.
The baby appears ill, in addition to having the cough.
How Can I Make My Baby More Comfortable?
Your pediatrician will check your baby’s breathing and listen to his or her lungs with a stethoscope. He or she may also watch how the chest moves when the baby breathes. The doctor will ask you a number of questions about your baby’s medical history, such as if there are any other children in the family who have similar symptoms.
If your baby is put into the hospital, she or he will most likely be watched for any changes in breathing. This will help the doctors discover if the cause of the wheezing or other sounds are getting better or worse, and how best to treat them.
If your baby is under three months old, has a fever, or the symptoms do not get better after treatment, he or she may need to go to the intensive care unit (ICU). The reason for this is to make sure that the baby receives the best care and is closely watched.
More information about wheezing in infants.
More information about croup.
More information about babies and colds.
More information about whooping cough.
More information about pneumonia.
More information about bronchiolitis.
Last updated: 08/2015
Wheezing in Infants and Toddlers
Sources & references used in this article:
Asthma in babies and children by B All – babycenter.com.my
The wheezing infant: Diagnosis and treatment by M Kovacs – CANADIAN JOURNAL OF DIAGNOSIS, 2000 – STA COMMUNICATIONS INC.
Wheezing Disorders in the Pre-School Child: Pathogenesis and Management by R Kumar – Pediatric annals, 2003 – healio.com