“Help! There is rattling in my chest whenever I breathe out!” Well, rattles or crackles within the chest can be disturbing.
This article explores the causes of the rattling sound that emanates from the lungs or chest whenever one breathes out. In some cases, such rattles may be accompanied by coughing up mucus after deep breaths.
What Causes Crackling When Breathing Out?
There are many causes of crackling when breathing out, but the main one is acute bronchitis or pneumonia.
Other possible causes are pulmonary fibrosis, bronchiectasis, atelectasis, and metastasis ablation or post-thoracotomy or interstitial lung disease. Also, pulmonary edema may cause rales.
So, there are various causes or indicators of crackles in the chest or lung since all crackling signifies interference of airflow.
For instance, the causes of crackling in children can be different from those in adults and may often be heard at night or when exhaling.
At times, crackles in your lungs can only be experienced after coughing. Thus, this isn’t a definitive condition, but rather an isolated clinical observation to find the real cause of the crackles.
Rattling In the Chest When Breathing Deep
It is a fundamental rule that any moment you experience rattling in your chest when breathing deeply, you should think of having acute bronchitis or pneumonia.
Therefore, in case you have such a condition, immediately seek the advice of a professional or go for a diagnosis in a clinic or hospital. It is pretty simple, don’t waste a second because that stuff kills!
The difference between the two diseases is that while pneumonia is a condition where there is an accumulation of fluid in your lungs, bronchitis, on the other hand, denotes inflammation in the bronchi.
So, this sign or symptom cannot be outrightly declared to point at pneumonia or acute bronchitis. Not that simple, unless it shows up on an x-ray or you keenly listen to your chest or lungs to know if the fluid makes the sound.
But, if you notice a wheeze when you breathe deeply, or if your lungs or chest hurts, display symptoms of having low levels of oxygen, and or feel short of breath, visit your medical expert as soon as possible.
If you have no cold, but flu and still hear the rattles in the chest when breathing deeply, you likely had a viral infection in your respiratory system that caused pneumonia.
Since the flu is a form of airway and lung inflammation caused by a respiratory virus, it contributes to a buildup of fluid or mucus in your breathing system as neutrophils fight this virus.
That is the primary reason you can get a respiratory infection or pneumonia after getting a respiratory virus.
Acute Bronchitis in Grown Person
Acute bronchitis in adults, pronounced as brong-KEYE-tis, is a condition with signs and symptoms such as irritation and swelling of your lungs’ air passage. As a result, you end up having a breathing problem or coughing.
It is a kind of respiratory infection that mostly happens during the winter season and is stimulated or triggered by another illness like the flu or a cold.
With time, the illness spreads from your nose down to your throat and finally into your airways and windpipe.
Acute bronchitis is sometimes called chest cold is temporary and not fatal because it does not last beyond two weeks.
However, it’s sometimes accompanied by coughing which may last for more than a month. Acute bronchitis is usually cleared by itself if you are a healthy person.
Like pneumonia, this condition is primarily caused by a viral infection in the respiratory system. But, it can as well be caused by other germs such as a fungus, yeast, or bacteria.
Breathing air laced with chemical fumes, pollution, or dust can as lead to acute bronchitis. It is a common illness in people who smoke a cigarette.
If you have a lung disease, you are likely to have acute bronchitis as well. It’s common with emphysema or asthma for smokers.
You risk having bronchitis if you have a prolonged medical problem like heart failure. People allergic to some things in the air such as pollen get bronchitis as well.
Squeaky Sound When Breathing Out
Squeaky breathing sound when exhaling is commonly referred to as wheezing or having a high-pitched breath sound. Sometimes the sound comes in the form of whistling when breathing out and is a sign of narrowed airways.
Any time you breathe in and out, breath sounds, a form of turbulence is produced in your lungs as the exchange of air takes place.
If you take a stethoscope and try listening to your chest, the sound of your lungs should normally be louder when inhaling air and softer when you exhale it.
So, changes in lung sounds may be a sign of several things. It becomes a big issue if the sound is high-pitched.
Normally, if you hear high-pitched wheezes when breathing out, it’s possible that your airways have narrowed abnormally, and are obstructing the free flow of air through your lungs as well as it did previously.
It can as well show a need for a medical emergency.
If you experience such a condition, then you should know that you are possibly having a chronic disease such as asthma.
Other popular causes of high-pitched breath sounds are obstructive sleep apnea, bronchitis, allergies, lung cancer, bronchiectasis, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
Injuries and illnesses may cause frequent unexpected high-pitched breath sounds.
Some of the injuries may include:
- Inhaling smoke
- Inhaling a foreign substance,
- Respiratory tract infection, or
- Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection.
Rattling in Chest Coughing Up Mucus – Causes
The cause of rattling in your chest while coughing up mucus at the same time could be airway inflammation.
This infection of the respiratory passages not only makes the airways narrow but also discharges dense fluids or phlegm.
The secreted mucus then clogs the tinny air passages leading to either shortness of breath, wheezing, and cough or bronchitis.
At times, the accompanying coughs produce sputum, also known as phlegm coughed up from your lungs.
Crackling When Breathing Out NHS
What do NHS experts say about having crackling sounds while breathing?
Well, according to NHS experts, chest and lung crackling when breathing out may develop into a persistent cough. Although bronchiectasis may not contribute to this condition, it needs more diagnosis to establish the exact cause.
Normally, like said earlier, your lungs contain bronchi or small branching airways. These passages oxygen to travel through into tiny alveoli popularly called air sacs before being absorbed into the bloodstream.
The walls inside bronchi are covered with humid mucus, important for protecting the airways against the damage of the system from moving particles down into the lungs.
According to NHS, a condition of bronchiectasis leads to abnormal widening of the bronchi. As a result, extra mucus gets accumulated into the airways, making the bronchi more susceptible to infection.
In case of such infection, the bronchi get damaged leading to more accumulation of mucus in them and further risk of infection. With time, this condition culminates into more damaging of your lungs leading to crackling when exhaling air.
Although you can rarely have complications of bronchiectasis, the problem is sometimes fatal.
Serious complications include coughing up huge volumes of blood caused by the splitting of one of the lung blood vessels. This is a grave condition that needs emergency surgery treatment.
How to Treat Crackling Sounds in Chest
How do you treat the rattling sounds in the chest whenever you breathe lying down?
Well, you can treat crackling sounds in the chest when breathing lying down using home remedies. The common medically recommended home therapies are:
#1 Taking a Hot Shower
Like steam therapy, taking a hot shower can make breathing more comfortable besides helping to stop the wheezing sounds.
Your tense airways get relaxed from the hot shower warmth, and the moisture can also aid in thinning mucus blocking the air passage system.
#2 Drinking Warm Fluids
Drinking warm fluids regularly will help to keep your body properly hydrated. It can also assist to soothe the already stressed airways making it much easier to breathe out while lying down.
It further helps to loosen sticky mucus found in the throat and airways.
#3 Using Steam Therapy
It’s the quickest relief for this condition because it works faster compared to other remedies at home combined.
It is recommended for helping to reduce any airway obstruction by getting rid of phlegm and thick mucus.
When infused with essential oil, this therapy works more efficiently.
- Fill a large bowl with hot water
- Select the essential oil of your choices such as peppermint or eucalyptus and pour a couple of drops into the hot water
- Wrap a clean towel around your head and lean over the bowl to seal any opening through which the steam can escape
- Inhale the hot steam for about 15 minutes through your nose and mouth
- Repeat this process as many times as you think necessary
FAQs on Abnormal Chest & Lungs Sounds
These are some of the facts you never knew about abnormal chest and lung sounds:
What causes crackling in the lungs?
The common causes of crackles in your lungs are bronchitis, pneumonia, croup, asthma, post-nasal drip, obstruction by foreign particles, atelectasis, heart failure, emphysema, and cancer among others.
How do you get mucus out of your lungs?
You can effectively eliminate mucus from your lungs through unsticking phlegm to help you move easily. You can do it by taking a couple of deep breaths.
What do your lungs sound like with pneumonia?
You will hear rattling sounds if you have pneumonia. This happens when you exhale and inhale air through your lungs due to obstruction of the alveoli.
What does it mean when you have crackling sounds in your lungs?
A crackling sound is a good indicator of an infection in your lungs. The infection can be by germs such as a virus, bacteria, or a fungus.
References & Further Reading
- 1: NHS (2021) – Bronchiectasis – Diagnosis