Helping Seniors Live Healthier Lives

Knowing What Could Be The Cause Of Your Child's Chest Pain

Often the reason for parents taking their children to see a doctor is because of complaints of chest pain. Each year, doctors assess more than 650,000 cases of chest pain in children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 21. More than 98 percent of these cases are noncardiac in nature. Although chest pain can be a symptom of underlying heart or lung disease, even common illnesses can cause chest pain in children.

Acid reflux. This condition can cause pain in either the chest or abdomen. Typically characterized by a burning sensation below the breastbone, younger children sometimes have difficulty describing this type of pain and say they have chest pain when what they are feeling is heartburn. Depending on the severity of your child's acid reflux symptoms, his or her doctor may prescribe medication or recommend medicines, such as antacids to neutralize stomach acids, which are available over the counter.

Stress or anxiety. Similar to a stress-related headache, excessive worry over school, an upcoming sporting event, or a fight with a friend can bring on the symptom of chest pain. Although heart disease often is the cause of chest pain in adults, a University of Georgia study found that less than 2 percent of children evaluated for chest pain have a cardiac condition. Psychological factors, such as anxiety and depression, frequently are the cause of physical symptoms, including chest pain, in children.

Injury. An injury doesn't have to be serious to cause chest pain. Frequent coughing, a fall, or direct blow to the chest when playing sports can strain or injure the muscles in the rib cage area, causing chest pain. But as long as the pain isn't persistent or severe, and your child doesn't experience difficulty breathing, his or her doctor likely will recommend rest and a nonprescription pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, as treatment.

Pediatric costochondritis. Viral illness usually is the cause of inflammation of the joints in the chest – a common cause of chest pain in children, particularly in pre-adolescents and adolescents. In addition to pain when coughing or inhaling or exhaling deeply, a child may show symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection as well. Sometimes children complain of tenderness in the front of the chest between the breastbone and ribs. Treatment generally involves taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, to relieve pain.

Acute bronchitis. Children can get acute bronchitis often following a cold, chronic sinusitis, or other upper respiratory infection. While the cause usually is a virus, bacteria can cause acute bronchitis as well. The condition can be serious in children, especially for those with asthma.

If your child has chest or back pain, a high fever, or shortness of breath, he or she may have pneumonia – a potential complication of acute bronchitis. But providing that your child doesn't experience complications, treatment includes avoiding second-hand tobacco smoke, increasing fluid intake, running a cool mist humidifier, and giving your child an analgesic, such an acetaminophen, for fever.

Pleurisy or pediatric pneumothorax. Symptoms of pleurisy, or inflammation of the lining around the lung, may include a dry cough and a sharp chest pain when taking in a deep breath. In some cases, shortness of breath along with pain in only one side of the chest may be due to a condition known as a pneumothorax in which case your child may need to be hospitalized. In the rare instances when this happens as a complication of acute or chronic lung disease or blunt trauma to the chest, air or gas leaks into the chest cavity.

For more information, contact Alpert Zales & Castro Pediatric Cardiology or a similar location.