Wheezing is also a symptom of what’s known as allergic asthma. A person may be allergic to something that sets off wheezing and/or coughing, Fishbein said. “Every once in a while someone will not have asthma and have very isolated allergic reactions to things, mostly seen with pets like cats or dogs. They will only wheeze in that scenario but never other times.”
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, half of the 20 million Americans who have asthma have the allergic type of asthma, in which something specific sets off their attack.
Bronchitis, meanwhile, mostly occurs as the result of an infection. However, adult smokers who cough a lot are said to have chronic bronchitis. “Again, this is semantics, and one physician might call something bronchitis that another calls asthma,” Fishbein said.
Patients likely would need a methacholine challenge to discern whether they have asthma, said Fishbein. Physicians can administer the methacholine challenge test (MCT), which is widely used to evaluate for airway hyperresponsiveness, a hallmark sign of asthma.
Regardless of the diagnosis or the cause of the symptoms, patients with any difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing or chest tightness should see their primary care doctor for an evaluation. If their doctor suspects an allergic cause, patients may be referred to an allergist. If at any time breathing becomes extremely difficult, patients should head straight to the emergency room.