Most of the children complain of pain in the chest during their growing years. Rarely, chest pain in children is due to the heart.
Causes of Chest Pain in Children
Chest pain in children can be due to numerous reasons. It could be cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, or mental health conditions.
Cardiovascular Causes of Chest Pain in Children
Though chest pain in children is rarely related to the heart, the condition cannot be ruled out. Only 2 percent of the visit to the doctor for children is related to a heart condition.(1)
If the pain is heart-related, it may radiate to the neck, shoulder, arm, and back. The child may experience dizziness or fainting or a change in pulse and blood pressure. A few conditions that may lead to heart-related chest pain are:
Coronary Artery Disease
Chest pain related to coronary artery disease may lead to tightness or pressure in the chest. The symptoms may appear after the child is engaged in any physical activity.
Myocarditis and Pericarditis
These heart conditions may result from viral or bacterial infection. They occur after the child has been sick with a viral infection and would include shortness of breath, dizziness and fainting as symptoms.
Congenital Anomalies of the Heart
Congenital heart conditions such as coarctation of the aorta, Eisenmenger’s syndrome, and pulmonary valve stenosis are the conditions that occur as a part of the heart did not develop properly. These conditions may cause chest pain in children.
Respiratory Conditions That Can Cause Chest Pain in Children
Respiratory conditions that can cause chest pain in children are as follows:
Certain respiratory conditions that settle in the respiratory system including bronchitis and pneumonia may be the reason for chest pain in children. There may also be low energy, fever and cough with these conditions.
Pulmonary embolism occurs when there is a blood clot formation in the arteries of the lung that may affect the normal blood flow. There may be shortness of breath or the child may breathe fast and have a blue color of finger and lips.
Musculoskeletal Conditions That Cause Chest Pain in Children
Conditions related to bones and muscles may also be responsible for causing chest pain in children.
A child may experience chest pain as a result of trauma which may result in contusion or bruise below the skin due to collision or fall. It may heal on its own or by ice application or pain-relieving medications.
Chest pain may also result due to strained muscle, which may occur due to weight lifting or playing sport. Pain in this condition occurs on a specific area of the chest, which may even be swollen and red.
This condition occurs in the upper part of the chest in the area of cartilage that connects ribs to the sternum. This is known as a costochondral junction.
The child may experience sharp pain in the joints which may increase in deep breathing or touching the affected area. The pain in this condition may last for a few seconds or longer. There is also noticeable inflammation in the affected area.
Tietze syndrome is a result of inflammation in the joints of the upper rib. There is noticeable warmth and swelling over the affected joint.
The chest pain in this condition occurs with physical activity and also due to severe cough.
Chest Wall Pain
Chest wall pain is a common cause of chest pain in children. It leads to sharp pain for a few moments or minutes in the middle of the chest and can become worse with deep breathing or when someone presses on the middle of the chest.
In xiphodynia, the pain occurs in the bottom of the sternum and may be experienced by the child after eating a large amount of food, moving around, or coughing.
Scoliosis is a curve in the spine curvature and may be either outward or inward. This may cause compression in the child’s spinal cord and may also distort the proper size of the chest cavity. It may cause chest pain. This condition may require treatment as it may inhibit movement and cause other health conditions.
Gastrointestinal Conditions That Can Cause Chest Pain in Children
Chest pain may be caused by gastrointestinal distress due to gastroesophageal reflux disease. There may be burning pain in the chest that may worsen on lying down. Dietary modifications may be needed to reduce the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Other gastrointestinal conditions such as peptic ulcer, spasm or inflammation of the esophagus, stones in the gall bladder, may also lead to pain in the chest.
Mental health Conditions
Anxiety may hyperventilate a child and lead to chest pain. There may be trouble breathing and dizziness along. Stress can also act as a trigger for unexplained chest pain.
Conditions Related to Breast
Children going through puberty may also experience chest pain due to changes in hormones. It may occur in both girls as well as boys.
Chest pain in a child can be due to various reasons and it is good to consult a doctor immediately and look for the reason and appropriate treatment.
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