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Wheezing. A funny thing to be grateful for

Hi all,

I am 56 yo woman with asthma which was adult onset when I was about 30. When I am having an acute asthma attack, no one in the ER doubts it because I am a very loud wheezer. You definitely don’t need a stethoscope to hear me. I am also very short of breath with a barking cough, hunched shoulders, and I look really sick… just awful. While these symptoms are hardly things to celebrate, they come in handy when you need help immediately and need to be taken seriously. Fellow hospital frequenters know exactly what I mean. The audible wheezing is especially important, as it’s a hallmark of having asthma. Thus, whether I arrive at the hospital by ambulance or drive myself, I am immediately whisked to the back for respiratory treatment. There might be 30 other people in the waiting room, but they don’t mess around with asthmatics, for very good reason. I absolutely feel real sympathy for people who have trouble convincing ER they are having an asthma attack, just because they don’t wheeze.
I have never been in full respiratory failure or intubated, but there were definitely times I would have been, if not for swift response by ER doctors and staff. So, I am grateful for whatever gets me the treatment I need, including a noisy wheeze.

The Pros and Cons

However, everything has pros and cons, right? The same symptom that saves me also condemns me when I am ready to leave the hospital. Because when the attack is bad, my wheezing usually takes at least 3 days to subside. That means getting admitted when I would rather just get a neb in the ER and go home or being forced to stay inpatient for week when I would rather only stay 2 or 3 days. I got lucky last week. I was only in the ER for about 2 hours, thanks to the magnesium that worked pretty well. I was still a bit wheezy, but much clearer than I was when I came in, and they let me go home! I was overjoyed… first, because I was treated quickly (as EVERY asthmatic should be), and next because I just wanted out of there once I could breathe.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Madeleine
    1 year ago

    I have adult onset after working in a refinery for a smoking manager.
    Actually not everyone wheezes. I was in denial for years because I didn’t wheeze. I had an asthmatic cough and would get bronchitis if someone with a cold even looked at me. It wasn’t till I got a book on asthma and read the descriptions of coughing symptoms and bronchitis that I finally mentally accepted the diagnosis. I read that book cover to cover in one day. I’ve had my share of ER visits, but again I don’t wheeze. My breathlessness is due to coughing that sometimes would make it difficult to inhale between coughs. My coughs were gagging coughs that got worse at sundown. I was misdiagnosed for years by a doctor that said my coughing was due to post nasal drip. When a new doctor told me I had asthma I was in denial till I read about the coughing. My asthma is now under control and since I increased my vitamin D and betaglucans intake my bouts with bronchitis are less frequent. I can hear an asthmatic cough. When I hear others cough I sometimes think, that sounds like an asthmatic cough. I wonder if they know they have asthma.

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    2 years ago

    jacqline – thank you for sharing your story! Wheezing can be a double-edged sword as you so well describe. Even after many years as a Respiratory Therpapist, I shudder when I hear that wheeze from across the ED.

    I’m glad your most recent visit didn’t require a long hospital stay! Definitely a blessing to just be treated and go home where you can be comfortable.

    Lyn (site moderator)

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