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Lung diseases

Whistling when inhaling

01/20/2010

Question:

I recently got over a flu with a fever and a dry cough. When I inhaled deeply there would be a whistle at the very end of the breath. It lasted for a few days. Any idea what this was? Could it have been a lung infection?

Answer:

Whistling during exhalation is called wheezing. Whistling during inhalation is often called strider. After upper respiratory infections, there can sometimes be inflammation of the larynx (voicebox) that can result in these sounds when a person breaths through the mouth. If the sounds occur while breathing through the nose, it can be due to inflammation and swelling of the nasal passages. It is important to distinguish between sounds during inhalation and exhalation because the exhalation sounds (wheezing) can be a sign of bronchospasm (asthma) that can develop after respiratory infections. If there are additional symptoms such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or cough then it would be helpful to be seen by a physician to be sure that there is not serious swelling of the larynx. If there is any question, then a physician can listen with a stethoscope over both the neck and the lungs to determine where the sounds are coming from.

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Response by:

James N Allen, Jr, MD James N Allen, Jr, MD
Clinical Professor of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University