Occasionally, children complain that their “chest hurts”. Of course, with an adult, one would automatically assume “chest pain” signifies heart problems. But is this the case with children’s complaints of chest discomfort?
Fortunately, children typically do not have cardiac related chest pain. There will always be the exception and when cardiac involvement is suspected, a 9-1-1 call is appropriate activating the Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) protocols and possibly saving the child’s life.
Should your child complain of pain to his chest, you can breathe easy knowing the cause will most likely be benign in origin. Common causes identified by Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital are among the following:
- Costochondritis: inflammation that occurs within the “joint” between the rib and breastbone. This symptom is caused with upper respiratory viral illness or frequent coughing and is usually treated with anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen.
- Injury: impact (which can be serious) or strain with frequent coughing, contact sports or falls can create discomfort to the chest. Treatment depends on the extent of the injury that is minor in nature is generally supportive in nature with rest and over-the-counter pain medications. All injuries to the chest should be evaluated by a physician particularly when difficulty breathing is associated.
- Stress and Anxiety: a condition typically associated with adults, children can also suffer from the side effects of perceived stress or worry. Determining the cause of this type of discomfort aides in recognizing possible interventions for treatment.
- Precordial Catch Syndrome: a rare condition that typically affects adolescents in which a sudden onset of sharp pain associated with inspiration occurs along the chest or back. This condition has no significant side effects and generally resolves itself within moments. (information obtained the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital website: www.cincinnatichildrens.org)
Parents can breathe easy knowing chest pain occurring in children is rarely cardiac in origin. However, a few rare circumstances may indicate heart involvement in children. Those will be reviewed in part-two of this article, posted tomorrow on this site.