Viral Induced Wheeze

What is viral induced wheeze?
A wheeze is a high-pitched whistling sound produced by a narrowing of the airways when breathing. Difficulty in breathing and wheeze can occur when your child has a respiratory infection (an infection of the breathing system causing symptoms such as cough and runny nose) such as a ‘cold’. These wheezy episodes usually last between 2 and 4 days but can be longer. They can occur as a ‘one off’ or can occur repeatedly when your child picks up a viral respiratory infection (Recurrent Viral Induced Wheeze). As there is no prevention available against viral infections, some children do have recurrent viral induced wheeze.

Nearly one third of all pre-school age children will wheeze on at least one occasion when they have a cold. Children with asthma also wheeze. The difference between asthma and viral induced wheeze is that children with asthma will have a wheeze not only when they have an infection, but also during exercise or after being in contact with triggers such as pollen, pet hair and dust mites. Also, most importantly, children with viral induced wheeze will grow out of the problem by around 4 – 5 years old whereas children with asthma may continue to have wheezy episodes even above this age. Therefore if your child only develops a wheeze with a cold and is under five years of age it is likely they have viral induced wheeze rather than asthma, but we cannot be absolutely certain until they are above five years of age.

For more information, read our viral induced wheeze leaflet.

Videos

Thank you to ASKSNIFF for providing the videos included in this playlist.

Useful links

The Black and Asian Family (Barnardos) helpline

Last Modified: 11:00am 31/03/2022