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Survey of respiratory sounds in infants
  1. H E Elphick,
  2. P Sherlock,
  3. G Foxall,
  4. E J Simpson,
  5. N A Shiell,
  6. R A Primhak,
  7. M L Everard
  1. Paediatric Respiratory Unit, Sheffield Children's Hospital, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TH, UK
  1. Dr Everardm.l.everard{at}


BACKGROUND Over the last decade there has been an apparent increase in childhood wheeze. We speculated that much of the reported increase may be attributed to the term wheeze being adopted by parents to describe a variety of other forms of noisy breathing.

AIMS To investigate terminology used by parents to describe their children's breath sounds.

METHODS An interview was carried out with the parents of 92 infants with noisy breathing, beginning with an open question and then directed towards a more detailed description. Finally, the parents were asked to choose from a wheeze, ruttle, and stridor on imitation by the investigator and video clips of children.

RESULTS Wheeze was the most commonly chosen word on initial questioning (59%). Only 36% were still using this term at the end of the interview, representing a decrease of one third, whereas the use of the word ruttles doubled.

CONCLUSIONS Our results reflect the degree of inaccuracy involved in the use of the term wheeze in clinical practice, which may be leading to over diagnosis. Imprecise use of this term has potentially important implications for therapy and clinical trials.

  • respiratory sounds
  • wheeze

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