When a child suffers chest pain, it can be enough to send any parent into a panic: “Could it be a cardiovascular disease?”
Fortunately, the response generally is no. Heart attacks are extremely rare in children. Most of the time, chest pain in a child or teen is due to a harmless condition called costochondritis.
Costochondritis (kos-tuh-kon-DRY-tis) is a painful swelling (swelling) of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breastbone (sternum). It’s one of the most typical causes of chest pain in kids and teens, with women having it regularly than young boys.
The breastbone is the tough bone you can feel in the center of your chest, ranging from the bottom of the neck down toward the stomach. Your ribs are linked to your breastbone by rubbery cartilage at points called costosternal joints. One or more of the costosternal joints can be affected by costochondritis, and it’s in these joints that the pain is felt. Since of this, costochondritis is sometimes described as chest wall pain or costosternal syndrome.
Costochondritis can cause a sharp, stabbing pain that may make you think it’s a heart attack or other heart disease, but that’s rarely the case. Normally, it’s harmless and disappears on its own after 2 or 3 days. In some cases, however, it lasts longer– from several weeks to months.
Causes of Costochondritis
Doctors typically can’t determine the specific reason for costochondritis, however in some cases it’s connected to:
- an injury to the ribs or breastbone
- physical strain due to heavy lifting or exhausting exercise
- repeated coughing (as can occur with some infections).
Symptoms of Costochondritis
The primary symptoms of costochondritis are pain and pain in the chest. A sharp pain is usually felt on the left side of the breastbone, but it’s possible to feel it on both sides of the chest. The pain can worsen when a child takes deep breaths, coughs, moves the upper body or presses on the affected area. It may reduce a little when a child stops moving or takes shallower breaths, however in general it won’t go away completely.
Although a cardiac arrest is seldom the cause of chest pain in kids, it helps to understand how costochondritis pain differs from cardiovascular disease pain:
- Cardiovascular disease pain is usually more prevalent and felt in other body parts, like the arms and neck. It likewise feels as if it’s originating from under the breastbone.
- Costochondritis pain is usually just felt in a little area of the chest and feels as if it’s coming straight from where the breastbone meets the ribs.
Diagnosis of Costochondritis
If your child has chest pain that does not disappear, call your doctor or go to a healthcare facility emergency clinic. Chest pain is hardly ever a sign of something major in kids, but in some cases it can be an emergency that needs instant medical attention.
To identify costochondritis, the doctor will ask your child questions about the symptoms and will feel for tenderness along the area where the breastbone meets the ribs. Although it’s not possible to see costochondritis on a chest X-ray, the doctor may buy one to eliminate other possible causes of chest pain, such as pneumonia.
Treatment for Costochondritis
Costochondritis typically disappears on its own without any treatment within a few days or weeks. If you’re worried about pain that’s not going away, talk to your doctor.
In the meantime, the doctor will most likely advise providing your child over-the-counter pain medicines like ibuprofen or naproxen to help reduce symptoms. Applying a warm compress or a heating pad (set on low) to the sore area also may give some relief.
Till your child feels much better, ensure he or she gets lots of rest and prevents any activities that make the pain even worse.
Given that it’s not constantly clear what causes costochondritis, it’s not possible to prevent it. But you can help your kids prevent it.
First, determine and fix activities that can cause this kind of pain in kids. Costochondritis frequently is brought on by heavy lifting– such as carrying an overstuffed backpack, particularly on simply one shoulder, which numerous kids do. If your child has to carry great deals of books to and from school, buy a helpful knapsack that spreads weight evenly over both shoulders and make certain it’s worn over both shoulders.