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Wheezing and Asthma

What is a Wheeze?

A wheeze is a whistling/ squeaking noise mostly heard on an outward breath. It is a sign that the airways for some reason are inflamed and narrower than usual.

Wheeze is one of the symptoms of Asthma – but a wheeze does not always mean asthma – most often wheeze goes away after a person recovers from a short term illness

Wheeze is often heard when we have a bad cold and cough – called a ‘viral wheeze’ some children will get a wheeze every time they have a cold but in between times breathe easily.
Sometimes they may be prescribed inhalers to help with it – but will not need it when they are otherwise well

When children have asthma the wheeze may be present at other times – like when they are exercising or when they come across a ‘trigger’ for their asthma symptoms – like an allergy.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a condition that affects the lungs. It affects the airways – the tubes that carry air in and out of the body. The airways get inflamed and produce mucus. It makes the airways tight and narrow.
Asthma causes;
• Wheezing
• Coughing
• Shortness of breath
• Tight feeling in chest
• Coughing happens overnight / early morning
• A cough that keeps coming back
• A cough during / after exercise and activity

Asthma sufferers will often find symptoms are made worse by different triggers this might be smoke, allergies, viruses or cold air.
People with asthma may have times when their symptoms are under control – but a trigger may cause a flare up.
The symptoms that people with Asthma get can have other causes too – it is not always easy to diagnose
You can look for information on spotting asthma symptoms in your child here

  • If you have any worries that your child has symptoms similar to Asthma you should discuss this with a doctor
    Doctors need to decide if your child may have asthma or if they have symptoms such as a wheeze for other reasons.
    It is not always possible to decide this straight away – a definite diagnosis of asthma can take a while. Your child will be treated for their symptoms in the meantime.
    The Doctor will want to know about the symptoms and see what the risks are for your child having asthma.

    There are some things that increase the risk of Asthma;
    • Being born early (before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
    • Being born at a low weight
    • Parents smoked during pregnancy
    • Living with smokers
    • They or others in the family have eczema, allergies, hay fever
    • Living in a polluted area – like on a main road
    • Damp or mould in the home
    • They have had Bronchiolitis or Croup in the past

    There is not a definite way of being sure a young baby or child has asthma.
    Before the age of five it is not possible to give a definite diagnosis of asthma.
    Doctors will want to be sure the symptoms are not caused by something else.
    They will check if a baby or child has ongoing symptoms of asthma, as well as if they have any of the risk factors above.
    If so the health team are likely to try asthma treatments to see if they help – if they do they will be prescribed for your child.
    About 40% of children who wheeze and have other symptoms when they are little will eventually be diagnosed with asthma – others will grow out of it.

  • If your child seems wheezy with their cough or cold, but are usually well, you can help them feel better.
    • Having you close by – snuggle up together
    • Reassure them – noisy breathing can make children feel panicky
    • Keep calm yourself – remember if you do feel worried things are getting worse, you can get help
    • Offer frequent drinks – little and often is easier when you have a cold
    • Warm drinks can be comforting
    • Give paracetamol if they seem to be feeling poorly
    • Keep away from smoky places – do not smoke near your child or allow anyone else to smoke near them. Do not allow any smoking inside your house.


  • Having a child with Asthma is a worry for parents, and as children get older they may worry about their own health too.

    Asthma is a common condition. It can be serious if not properly looked after. It is important that you follow the advice and treatment given to you by health professionals to keep it as well controlled as possible.

    Many people live with asthma with few problems most of the time. There are things you can do to help keep your child well.

  • There are ways you can help keep asthma symptoms under control as much as possible;

    • Do not smoke, or let others smoke, around your child - this will make asthma symptoms much worse
    • Make sure your child uses their preventer inhaler every day, even when they are well
    • Your child should always use a spacer (image of spacer & inhalers) when taking their inhaler. If you do not have a spacer; speak to your GP or asthma nurse
    • Wash spacers at least monthly –this helps your child get more medicine through it. Find out how here
    • Where possible avoid things that trigger your child's symptoms, or that make their asthma worse
    • Your child should have regular asthma reviews with their GP or asthma nurse at least once a year. This is a chance to review personal asthma plans too
    • If you notice that your child seems to be needing their inhaler more make an appointment to discuss with the asthma team at your GP practice
    • Order new inhalers with plenty of time to spare – set a reminder on your phone or on your calendar to remind yourself. Running out can be dangerous
    • Follow your child's personal asthma plan between regular appointments.
    • Ensure your child has their yearly flu vaccine.
    • When your child’s asthma is well controlled exercise is very good for them. It helps create healthy habits for life. Find out more from Asthma UK here


  • • Take the cap off the inhaler. Check there is nothing inside the mouthpiece
    • Shake the inhaler
    • Place the inhaler in the end of the spacer
    • Help your child to put the mask over their nose and mouth
    • Make a good seal so no medicine can escape
    • Press the top of the canister once so that one puff of medicine goes into the spacer
    • Count to 10 slowly (say ‘One, and two, and three,’ to get the timing right)
    • If you need to give more , repeat above steps
    • Wait 30 seconds between each puff
    • Remember to remove the inhaler and shake it between puffs
    • Wipe your child’s face afterwards – this removes medicine that might have landed on their skin this could cause redness and irritation.
    • *Click here* to watch a helpful video about using a spacer

  • Babies and children do get used to using inhalers.

    There will be times when they are not keen for all sorts of reasons.

    It is so important that they take their ‘preventer inhaler, as instructed, every day.

    When they have symptoms they need to use their ‘reliever inhaler’ to help them breathe easily again. Hopefully giving them their inhalers will not be a battle but on occasion it may be – it is still important you continue to try. If it is a regular problem – seek advice on the numbers below or from your asthma nurse.


  • Nursery or School need to know if your child is given a diagnosis of Asthma. This will allow them to act quickly if your child has symptoms at school

    • Share your child's asthma care plan with their school
    • It is important for school to know what will help your child in an emergency
    • If your child does not have an asthma care plan - talk to the school about what they would need to do to help your child.
    • Ensure school have all of your child's medications, and a spacer and that they are in date
    • Talk to your child and about how they must let a grown up know if they are struggling with their Asthma


  • Asthma attacks can happen for a number of reasons – it can be because of contact with a ‘trigger’ like pollen or animal fur. It may be because of a viral illness - like a cold making it worse. Or it could be because asthma treatment plans haven’t been followed for some reason.
    Often there will have been a change in asthma symptoms on the run up to an attack. If you notice this seeing your GP or nurse may help to stop a bad attack happening.
    If you are worried that;
    • Your child's symptoms are getting worse
    • The reliever inhaler (usually blue) isn't working They are complaining that their tummy or chest hurts.
    • Their breathing is getting faster or doesn't sound like it normally does
    • They are too breathless to speak, eat, play or sleep
    You should first:
    • Sit your child in an upright position
    • Try and keep your child calm – reassure and speak gently to them
    • Encourage them to take slow, steady breaths
    • Take 1 puff of their reliever inhaler (usually blue) through their spacer every 30 to 60 seconds, up to a maximum of ten puffs
    If things don’t get better, or you feel worried at any time, you can ring 111 for advice
    Call 999 for an ambulance if;
    • You don't have access to an inhaler and symptoms are getting worse
    • They have used their inhaler but things are not getting any better
    • They are using a lot of their body to ‘get breath in’ –tummy pulling in, ribs standing out or ‘sucking in’ at front of throat
    • You can see your child’s colour change – they look pale, grey or blue
    • They are getting less able to respond to you
    Never be frightened of asking for help in an emergency

Who Can Help?

For support or advice young people, families and professionals can contact:

Just One Number for Norfolk Children and Young People’s Health Services Tel: 0300 300 0123 Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Saturday 9am-1pm.

Parents can use Parentline Text messaging service: 07520 631590

Young people aged 11-19 can text Chat Health on 07480635060

Other parents who are going through or have been through this before can be a big help to you, friends or family, or you could join our online forum to speak to Norfolk Parents, click *here* to find out more.

If you have decided to keep smoke free around your child - which is especially important for children with Asthma you can contact Smokefree Norfolk *here*

The Lullaby Trust - Baby Check App This app has simple checks that you can do if your baby is ill and helps you think about whether they need to see a doctor or health professional.

Boloh - Are you are a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic parent wanting to know more about coughs, colds or chest infections?  The ‘Boloh’ helpline from Barnados ,which was set up in 2020 due  to the impact of Covid-19 on these communities, can help provide you with advice and guidance on what to do if your child has a cough, cold or chest infection. They can provide a service in English, Punjabi, Mirpuri, Polish, Luganda, Ruyankole, Rukiga, Rutooro and Kinyarwanda. Interpreters can also be provided for other languages.
The Boloh helpline number for children and families from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds is 0800 151 2605 or you can visit


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