The most common causes of chest pain in children are respiratory infections, such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia, or the common cold.
Pain that’s caused by constriction of the chest wall muscles can be a sign of a serious chest injury, such as a rib fracture.
Sucking or choking
When a child accidentally sucks on something in their mouth, it can cause pain to the chest and neck. Children can also choke on their tongue or food if they swallow without chewing.
A child can cough without any clear cause, but if they do it frequently, it could be a sign of an asthma or allergies issue, or a chronic cough with a cold.
While chest pain is the most common symptom of chest injury, it’s not always the only one. In some cases, the pain is an isolated symptom of something else, such as a heart attack or pneumonia.
Sometimes chest pain is the only symptom of something that’s happening in the chest, such as an infection or a heart attack.
Other symptoms of an infection or heart attack in the chest may include:
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
Any of these symptoms can mean that a child needs to see a doctor.
What causes chest pain in children?
There are many possible causes of chest pain in children, but chest pain caused by a chest injury is the most common. Other causes of chest pain in children include:
- A heart attack
- A collapsed lung
- Congestive heart failure
- Heart failure
Sometimes chest pain is a symptom of a serious condition that requires medical attention.
Chest pain caused by a heart attack is called angina. It’s one of the most common symptoms of a heart attack.
It usually occurs suddenly and may be in the same location as the heart attack. It’s also very painful and can cause:
- A feeling of pressure or heaviness in the chest
- Pain in the left shoulder, arm, or jaw
Chest pain caused by heart failure is called dyspnea (difficult breathing). It’s a symptom of heart failure.
Chest pain caused by heart failure is a sign of heart failure, and it’s usually in the same location as the heart attack. It can also cause:
- Diaphoresis (sweaty, clammy, and flushed)
- Fluid retention
- A feeling of lack of strength and lightheadedness
Chest pain caused when you have a chest cold or bronchitis is called dyspnea (difficult breathing) or bronchial spasm.
Pain caused by pneumonia usually starts in the lower part of the chest and may be an isolated symptom of pneumonia. It can also be caused by chest infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
Chest pain can also be caused by a pneumothorax. It’s a collapsed lung that can cause chest pain.
You may feel chest pain in the front or back part of your chest. It can be a sign of a serious chest condition, such as a collapsed lung or a severe heart attack.
Chest pain itself isn’t usually a symptom of a chest injury in a child, but chest pain caused by a heart attack or a collapsed lung can be another symptom of a serious heart issue or lung injury.
Other symptoms of a heart attack in a child may include:
- Fast or irregular heart rate
- Heavy, irregular, or skipped breathing
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Severe chest pain
Other symptoms of a collapsed lung in a child may be:
- Chest pain
- Fast breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Drowsiness or sleepiness
- Persistent pain in the chest
- An abnormal heart rate
- Blood pressure changes
- Severe headache
- Swelling in the throat
Diagnosing chest pain in children
In most cases, the only way to tell if your child’s chest pain is caused by a chest injury is to see a doctor.
Your child’s doctor will want to know:
- When the pain started
- How long the pain lasts
- What type of chest pain it is
- Where the pain is located
Your child’s doctor will also want to know:
- Whether the pain is severe
- Whether there are any other symptoms
If you have other symptoms, such as shortness of breath and sweating, your child’s doctor will want to know more about what might be causing the symptoms.
If you suspect that your child’s chest pain is caused by a chest injury, their doctor will order tests to determine the cause.
These tests can include:
- Blood tests. To check the level of oxygen in your child’s blood, they’ll take a blood sample.
- Chest X-ray. To check the size and shape of your child’s chest, they’ll take an X-ray.
- Chest CT scan. To see if there are any injuries or changes to the heart or lungs, a chest CT scan will be done.
If the doctor suspects that a more serious condition is causing the chest pain, they may order other tests, such as:
- Electrocardiogram. This test measures the electrical activity in your child’s heart.
- Echocardiogram. This test uses sound waves to create a moving picture of your child’s heart.
- Electroencephalogram. This test uses small, sticky electrodes to measure brain activity.
- Blood or urine tests. To check the levels of glucose and electrolytes in your child’s blood, they’ll test a blood sample or urine sample.
- Sputum test. A sputum test is a test for mucus in your child’s lungs.
Chest pain is one of the most common symptoms of a heart attack.
It’s also a symptom of other serious heart issues.
If your child has chest pain and other symptoms of a heart attack, they should get medical attention.
If you think your child’s chest pain may be caused by a chest injury, make an appointment with their doctor.
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