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Wheezing in Children: Care Instructions

Respiratory system of a child, showing lungs and detail of bronchial tubes.

Your Care Instructions

Bronchoconstriction, which may also be called reactive airway disease, occurs when the small airways (bronchial tubes) in your child's lungs spasm and become narrow. It causes wheezing, which is a whistling noise in your child's airways. This may be from a viral or bacterial infection. Or it may be from allergies, tobacco smoke, or something else in the environment. When your child is around these triggers, their body releases chemicals that make the airways get tight.

Bronchoconstriction is a lot like asthma. Both can cause wheezing. But asthma is ongoing, while narrowing of the small airways in the lungs may occur only now and then. Your child may have tests to see if they have asthma. Your child may take the same medicines used to treat asthma. Good home care and follow-up care with your child's doctor can help your child recover.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine.
  • Keep your child away from smoke. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child or in your house.
  • If you know what caused your child to wheeze (such as perfume or the odour of household chemicals), try to avoid it in the future.
  • Teach your child to wash his or her hands several times a day. And try using hand gels or wipes that contain alcohol. This can prevent colds and other infections.

When should you call for help?

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

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing. Signs may include the chest sinking in, using belly muscles to breathe, or nostrils flaring while your child is struggling to breathe.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child coughs up yellow, dark brown, or bloody mucus.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's wheezing gets worse.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.