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Baby Symptoms & Conditions

Chest Pain In Toddlers

Your toddler says his chest hurts. Could it be serious? Here’s how to know.

What is chest pain like for a toddler?

If an adult complains of chest pain, we automatically think, Call 911, but if it’s your toddler doing the complaining, there’s probably a less dramatic cause.

What could be causing my toddler to have chest pain?

Most likely, he’s developed an ache or strain in his chest muscles or skin, rather than having a heart or lung problem. It’s possible your toddler may have bronchitis or (more rarely) pneumonia, both of which are usually accompanied by a cough — if it’s pneumonia, he probably has a high fever too. If he’s wheezing, short of breath or has trouble breathing, he may have asthma. Although unusual in kids under two, it may also be an inflammation of the joints in the chest called costochondritis. Symptoms of this condition include pain and tenderness in the chest and along the border of the breastbone and ribs, which gets worse when he coughs or breathes deeply.

When should I take my toddler to see the doctor with chest pain?

If he has a high fever, is coughing excessively or seems like he’s in a lot of pain, talk to your doctor. And if he’s experiencing any difficulty breathing, get emergency medical help immediately.

What should I do to treat my toddler’s chest pain?

If you suspect he has a virus, make sure he gets plenty of rest and drinks lots of fluids. If it’s a bruise or strain, you can also try giving him some acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

By Paul Horowitz, MD, Discovery Pediatrics Inc. in Valencia, California