Chest pain in kids is a very common problem. Often kids from young children to teenagers complain of pain in the chest. It could be an issue related to the child’s heart, but more likely it is to be related to other causes such as respiratory, muscle, bones, gastrointestinal, or mental health condition.

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A study shows only 2 percent of kids suffering from chest pain are diagnosed with a heart condition.(1)

Mostly the pain goes away on its own. It is important to know about the causes of chest pain in children and when to consult a doctor.

Chest Pain in Children Due To Cardiac Causes

Coronary Artery Disease

Chest pain due to coronary artery disease has symptoms like tightness or pressure in the chest and may arise after physical activity.

Conditions associated with coronary artery disease are a prior heart condition, transplants, and Kawasaki disease.

Myocarditis and Pericarditis

Myocarditis occurs after the child has been sick from a viral infection. The symptoms experienced are,

Pericarditis leads to a chest pain which is sharp and moves towards the shoulder. The pain worsens on coughing, breathing deeply or lying on the back.

Congenital Anomalies Of Heart

Congenital anomalies occur because a part of the heart remains undeveloped in uteri.

It varies widely and has different symptoms. The congenital heart conditions which cause chest pain are:

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  • Coarctation of aorta
  • Eisenmenger syndrome
  • Pulmonary valve stenosis

Respiratory Conditions As a Cause of Chest Pain in Children

Asthma

Asthma is a condition which leads to tightness and difficulty in catching a breath. The symptoms of asthma are:

If the triggers are avoided asthma can be prevented. It can be treated with preventive and rescue medication which improves the quality of life.

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Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism is a condition in which a blood clot forms in the arteries of the lungs and blocks the normal blood flow. Children who are immobile for a period of time, or have cancer or diabetes, or those having a family history are more prone to this condition.

The symptoms of pulmonary embolism are,

  • Chest pain
  • Fast breathing
  • The blueness of finger and lips
  • Coughing up of blood

Respiratory Infection

Bronchitis and pneumonia are the most common respiratory infection associated with chest pain in children.

Along with pain, a child may experience,

  • Fever
  • Low energy
  • Cough

Gastrointestinal Conditions That Can Cause Chest Pain in Children

GERD or Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease

In GERD the child experience burning pain in the chest which comes on eating a large meal or if the child lies down for rest after a meal.

Diet modification and medication help with these conditions.

Other gastrointestinal and digestive conditions are a peptic ulcer, spasm, inflammation of the esophagus, and inflammation or stones in the gall bladder.

Chest Pain in Children Caused Due to Bone or Muscle Condition

Contusion

  • A contusion or a bruise under the skin caused by an accident like collision can cause chest pain.
  • Contusion heals on its own. Ice pack and pain medication can give relief from the symptoms.

Muscle Strain

On playing a sport or doing any other activity a child can have a muscle strain. There might be swelling and redness along with pain in a specific area of the chest.

Costochondritis

Costochondritis occurs in the costochondral joints, an area where cartilage connects the ribs with the sternum. It mostly involves the upper half of the ribs.

Sharp pain is experienced by the child in the affected area which worsens on touching or taking deep breaths. There is no warmth or swelling felt in the area.

Tietze Syndrome

Inflammation of the joints of the upper ribs results in Tietze syndrome. Unlike costochondritis, the affected area shows a noticeable sign of inflammation such as warmth and swelling.

The condition results from a severe cough or physical activity that strains the heart.

Precordial Catch

In precordial catch, the pain is severe and is felt in the left side near the bottom of the sternum. A pinched nerve or a muscle strain can be a cause of precordial catch.

The pain arises on standing up straight from a slouching posture.

Chest Wall Pain

This is a very common cause of chest pain in children. The pain is felt in the middle of the chest and worsens on pressing the chest or on deep breathing.

Mental Conditions That Can Cause Chest Pain in Children

Stress and Anxiety

Anxiety may lead to hyperventilation and may cause difficulty in breathing and dizziness. Stress is an unexplained trigger of chest pain.

When to Consult A Doctor?

Do not delay consulting a cardiologist if the child experiences the following condition.

  • Pain after exercising
  • Recurring pain
  • Fever along with chest pain
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fainting
  • Pain lasts long and is severe
  • Difficult respiration
  • Blue or gray lips

There are various reasons for chest pain in children and most are not life-threatening. But it is always good to take advice from a specialist regarding any discomfort a child is suffering from.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: August 28, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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