Wheezing Warning Signs: When to Rush to the ER

Doctor assessing patient with wheezing at ER in Abilene

Wheezing can be a scary symptom. The whistling sound when you breathe can make you anxious about your health. In some cases, wheezing is mild and will go away independently. But in other cases, wheezing means you need emergency care right away. This blog will explain when you should get to the nearest emergency room if you or a loved one start wheezing.

Knowing When to Go to the Emergency Room

You should go straight to the emergency room if you experience any of these wheezing symptoms:

  • You are having real trouble breathing or cannot speak in full sentences. Severe shortness of breath means you need immediate treatment.
  • Your wheezing does not get better after using your quick-relief inhaler. If 10-15 minutes goes by after using an inhaler and you still wheeze badly, go to the ER.
  • You have chest tightness or pain along with wheezing. This could signal a heart attack or other emergency.
  • You cough up blood. Coughing up blood is always an emergency symptom.
  • Your lips or the fingernails turn blue or gray. This means oxygen levels are very low.
  • You feel dizzy, confused, or pass out. These suggest your brain is not getting enough oxygen.

In all these cases, call 911 or ask someone to drop you to the nearest emergency room immediately. Even a few minutes can make a difference in getting life-saving treatment. 

Underlying Causes that Require Emergency Care

Certain conditions cause severe wheezing needing ER care. These include:

  • An asthma attack. Asthma exacerbations can narrow the airways and make wheezing bad. Go to the ER if an attack is not relieved with medication.
  • COPD flare-up. COPD also involves constricted airways. A sudden worsening of wheezing with COPD requires emergency intervention.
  • Heart failure. Fluid in the lungs from heart failure causes shortness of breath and wheezing. Seek urgent care if your symptoms flare up.
  • Pneumonia. This serious lung infection brings on wheezing along with coughing, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia requires hospitalization.
  • Pulmonary embolism. A blood clot in the lung cuts off oxygen and leads to wheezing. This is a life-threatening emergency.
  • Anaphylaxis. This severe allergic reaction can trigger wheezing and other symptoms. Anaphylaxis needs immediate treatment to halt progression. 

Look for Warning Signs in Children

In babies and children, wheezing may signal an urgent problem like:

  • Rapid breathing with wheezing
  • Flaring of the nostrils with each breath
  • Pulling off the skin around the neck or ribs while breathing
  • Poor feeding or unusual tiredness or lethargy

Any of these require prompt emergency care to support breathing. Call 911 or drive to our emergency room near you at first sight of breathing trouble. 

What to Expect in the Emergency Room

If you go to the ER for wheezing and trouble breathing, you can expect:

  • A doctor will evaluate your breathing, oxygen levels, and overall condition.
  • A chest x-ray may be done to look for underlying issues.
  • Blood tests can check for infection or other problems.
  • You may be given oxygen through a mask or nasal tube.
  • Breathing treatments or inhaled medications can open the airways.
  • IV medications may be used for seizures, infections, or lung fluid. 

Visit Our Emergency Room in Abilene

With severe wheezing and trouble breathing, the emergency room is always the best place to go. Express Emergency Room Abilene is fully equipped and staffed to provide rapid treatment for any breathing emergency.

The emergency room has advantages over urgent care in treating wheezing episodes:

  • ER doctors specialize in emergency respiratory problems. They can quickly diagnose the cause of wheezing and initiate the right treatment.
  • The ER has oxygen, breathing treatments, IVs, and medications available right on hand to get wheezing under control fast.
  • The ER can admit you to the hospital if your breathing distress is severe. Urgent care does not have this capability.
  • The ER is connected to specialists like pulmonary doctors and respiratory therapists who can consult on severe wheezing and trouble breathing.

Don’t take chances with your breathing – come straight to the emergency room if wheezing makes it difficult to get air in and out. We’re here 24/7 to provide the prompt care you need at our ER in Abilene.

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