Wheezing and Crackling Sounds in the Lungs

Wheezing, crackling in the lungs.When we breathe, our lungs make sounds that are often barely audible. However, in certain situations, you might hear high-pitched wheezing or a crackling sound coming from your lungs.

These unusual noises can be alarming, but understanding their causes can help you seek medical attention to treat the underlying respiratory issue.

In this blog post, we’ll explore everything you need to know about wheezing and crackling sounds in the lungs and what treatment options may help you find relief.

Why Do Our Lungs Make Sounds?

Our lungs make different sounds for various reasons, from the movement of air flowing in and out of the lungs to the vibration of the vocal cords and the sound of air passing through the bronchial tubes.

However, certain sounds can signal the presence of an underlying infection or inflammatory response, providing us with early warning signs of potential respiratory issues. By paying close attention to the sounds our lungs make, we can take proactive measures to maintain optimal respiratory health and help prevent more serious problems from worsening.

Wheezing in the Lungs: Sounds and Causes

Gif of factory and chimney smoke.Wheezing is a distinctive high-pitched whistling or rattling sound that occurs when you inhale or exhale. It happens when the airways become narrow due to inflammation in the lungs, making it difficult for the air to move through freely.¹

In addition to a wheezing sound, you might also experience a feeling of tightness in the chest and shortness of breath.

Various factors such as seasonal allergies and exposure to irritants like smoke, dust, or pollution, can trigger wheezing. It can also be a symptom of an underlying respiratory condition like asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).²

Sometimes, wheezing can also be accompanied by coughing and difficulty breathing.

Wheezing: Treatment

Gif of antibiotic medicine for wheezing and crackling in lungs.Your treatment options for wheezing will depend on the underlying cause. For example, if wheezing is a result of seasonal or pet allergies, you’ll need to avoid triggers such as dust, pet dander, and other airborne irritants that can cause inflammation and wheezing to occur.

Additionally, you may be able to ask your clinician for recommendations on over-the-counter (OTC) medications, like allergy medicine or nasal sprays.

In more severe cases, prescription medications, inhalers, and airway clearance therapy may be required.

Crackling in Lungs: Sounds and Causes

Gif of popcorn popping to demonstrate crackling in lungs.Crackling is a peculiar noise that resembles the sound of bubbles or popcorn popping, which you may hear when you take a breath. It’s often an indication of fluid accumulation in the lungs.³

Referred to as pulmonary crackles or rales,4 crackling can be indicative of a variety of underlying conditions, including pneumonia, bronchitis, COPD, or bronchiectasis.5

It can also range in sound from fine crackles, which are similar to the sound of rolling hair between fingers, to coarse crackles, which sound like velcro being pulled apart.6

Crackling in Lungs: Treatment

As with wheezing, treatment options for crackles will depend on the underlying cause. If the crackling noise is due to a respiratory infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. In some cases, lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and managing weight may also be recommended.

On the other hand, if you’re living with a chronic lung condition and experiencing frequent mucus buildup, airway clearance therapy may need to be incorporated into your treatment plan.

Gif of stethoscope for checking lungs.Hearing pulmonary crackles when you breathe? It’s important to speak with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and the best course of treatment for you.

Wheezing and Crackling Sounds When Breathing Out

You may experience both a wheezing and crackling sound when you breathe. This can happen if there is a combination of fluid buildup in the lungs and narrowing of the airways.

High Frequency Chest Wall Oscillation (HFCWO) therapy, an airway clearance technique, may help with wheezing and crackling in the lungs by loosening and moving mucus from the airways, making it easier to cough up.

When mucus blocks the airways, it triggers an inflammatory response, leading to the narrowing of the airways and difficulty breathing.

Tired of Wheezing and Crackling Lungs?

If you are someone living with a chronic lung condition, such as bronchiectasis or a comorbid condition of bronchiectasis and COPD or asthma, speak to your clinician about The SmartVest Airway Clearance System.

The SmartVest is designed to provide 360° chest wall coverage to help find relief from chronic symptoms, such as mucus buildup, cough, respiratory inflammation and infections, and other symptoms that make breathing more difficult.

Take the first step towards breathing easier, Request an informational packet to learn more about how SmartVest could help, or, Request a call from one of our Respiratory Therapists to talk about symptoms and if SmartVest could be the right option for you.

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[1] Cleveland Clinic. “Wheezing.” Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/15203-wheezing

[2] Cleveland Clinic. “Wheezing.” Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/15203-wheezing

[3] Medical News Today. “What Are the Different Types of Lung Sounds.” Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/lung-sounds#crackling

[4] Cleveland Clinic. “Lung Sounds.” Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/25193-lung-sounds

[5] BMJ Journals. “Lung Crackles in Bronchiectasis.” Retrieved from https://thorax.bmj.com/content/35/9/694

[6] Medical News Today. “What Are the Different Types of Lung Sounds.” Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/lung-sounds#crackling