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Not every instance of chest pain is a case of a heart attack. So if your child is experiencing chest pain, it’s likely not associated with a heart attack. Children are too young to experience a heart attack of natural causes unless they have an underlying medical condition. Chest pain in children is linked typically to musculoskeletal causes and sometimes cardiac or other causes. In this post, we’ll discuss them below and what you can do to remedy them or provide relief.
Types of Chest Pain in Kids
Kids complain of chest pain or growing pain between the ribs and the breastbone between the ages of seven to teenage years, it’s a common problem. This chest pain is mostly linked to viral illness, stress, or in most cases, musculoskeletal problems. The two most common forms of chest pain are non-cardiac and cardiac chest pains.
1. Non-Cardiac Chest Pain
Non-cardiac chest pain is pain that is NOT linked to the heart. Most commonly, it is pain that results from injury to the chest due to falling or hurting the chest. This pain is harmless and goes away with time or can be relieved with the use of prescription medications.
2. Cardiac Chest Pain
Cardiac chest pain is linked to family histories of heart attacks and tearing of the aorta. This kind of pain is dangerous and needs to be looked into immediately when symptoms arise.
When You Should Worry About Your Child’s Chest Pain
If your child’s chest pain is growing and accompanied by fever, you should worry and consider taking him/her to the doctor immediately. If your child’s heart rate is rapid and they complain of a ripping sensation, they may be victim to Marfan syndrome or have trouble breathing. Consider getting an emergency evaluation done in this situation.
Causes of Chest Pain in a Child
If you hear your child complaining of chest pain, look for visible signs and symptoms before visiting the doctor. The two most common causes of chest pain in children are – non-cardiac and cardiac.
1. Non-Cardiac Chest Pain Causes
The causes of non-cardiac chest pains are –
- Inflammation of the joints between the rib cage and breastbone
- Cold or flu
- Injury to the chest due to falling or accidents
- Acid reflux or “heartburn”
- Swallowing foreign objects through the oesophagus
2. Cardiac Chest Pain Causes
Cardiac chest pain causes are linked to –
- Blockage in the coronary arteries which carry oxygenated blood to the tissues of the heart
- Tear of the aorta
- Pericarditis, a condition that causes the inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart
- Heart viral infections
- Abnormal fast beating of the heart
Symptoms of Chest Pain
The following are the symptoms of chest pain in toddlers and kids –
- Injuries due to falling or getting hit in the chest
- Stomach pain
- Chest pain in children with asthma
- Wheezing, coughing or drooling
- Pain in the chest after eating due to regurgitated stomach acids
For the testing of chest pain in children, doctors may do a physical exam that involves pressing against your child’s chest with a stethoscope to assess whether the chest pain comes from the walls of the heart or from the lungs and other organs. If a physical exam is not enough, your doctor may give your child an X-ray examination or in rare cases, an EKG.
How Chest Pain is Treated in Kids
If your child has chest pain due to pneumonia or infections, he may be prescribed an antibiotic. For conditions linked to inflammation of the joints near the heart or Costochondritis, treatment lasts between one to two weeks with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen. For less severe cases or in the case of mild injuries, treatment is supportive care and rest followed by taking pain-relieving medications. For acid reflux conditions, over-the-counter medications may be administered to your child.
Taking Care of Your Child at Home
If the pain is mild or lasts for a short while, you can take care of your child at home. Consider supporting your child emotionally during the process by providing supportive care and encouraging adequate rest. You may consider giving your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve the pain.
During the first two days considering using a cold pack to relieve sore muscles for 20 minutes a day. If the pain persists beyond two days, consider using a heating pad on the sore muscles for 10 minutes a day to improve blood circulation and promote healing. You can also give your child hot showers and encourage stretching exercises to relieve chest pain throughout the day.
For heartburn, do not let your child lie down after meals and avoid letting them overeat or wear tight clothing around the waist.
There are certain lifestyle changes you can put in place to prevent chest pain in the first place. We recommend the following-
- No smoking in the house and limiting exposure to tobacco for children
- Eating a healthy diet rich in essential vitamins and minerals and cutting down sugars, processed foods, saturated fats, or anything that contributes to obesity
- Avoiding exposure to asthma triggers, allergens, and environmental irritants
- Encouraging your child to lead an active lifestyle and play outside with friends or participate frequently in sports
- Teach your child not to bend over 3 hours after meals
- Avoid consuming foods spicy meals, chocolates, and caffeinated foods which worsen acid reflux symptoms. Skip carbonated beverages and sodas too.
The occurrence of chest pain in children is not unusual. In fact, it is very common in toddlers and teenagers. Make sure your child eats healthy, sleeps on time, stretches every day, and doesn’t over-stress to avoid chest pain. In case you have a family history of chest pain or fear that your child’s condition is worsening, consider visiting the doctor. For chest pain that comes back often or is periodic in nature, we still recommend taking them to the doctor for emergency care and treatment.
Also Read: Knee Pain in Children