Chest Pain in Infants and Children

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Chest pain isn't just a problem for adults. It may occur in a child as well. Many of the causes aren't serious, but they may require a doctor's attention. Follow this chart for more information about chest pain in infants and children.

SYMPTOMS DIAGNOSIS SELF-CARE
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1. Does your child have a fever, a cough that produces mucus and shortness of breath?


Yes

These symptoms may be caused by BRONCHITIS. A high fever along with cough and shortness of breath could be a sign of PNEUMONIA.

If your child has bronchitis, be sure he or she gets lots of rest and drinks plenty of fluids.

Pneumonia is a serious infection. See your doctor right away.

No

2. Does your child have a tight cough, wheezing and shortness of breath?


Yes

These may be symptoms of BRONCHIOLITIS.

ASTHMA can also cause wheezing, coughing and trouble breathing.

Bronchiolitis is a serious infection. Asthma flare-ups can also be a serious problem. See your doctor right away to find out what's causing your symptoms.

No

3. Does your child have a dry cough and a sharp pain in the chest when he or she takes a deep breath?


Yes

These symptoms may be caused by PLEURISY, an inflammation of the lining around the lung.

See your doctor. He or she can determine what is causing the pleurisy. Often, an anti-inflammatory drug will help relieve symptoms. DO NOT give aspirin to your child without consulting your doctor first (see warning below).

No

4. Does your child have sudden sharp pain in one side of the chest with shortness of breath?


Yes

In rare cases, air will leak from a lung to fill the chest cavity. This makes it difficult to breathe. This condition is called a PNEUMOTHORAX.

See your doctor right away. Treatment of a pneumothorax may require hospitalization.

No

5. Does your child have a high fever, a very sore throat, and trouble breathing and/or swallowing?


Yes

These may be signs of a serious condition called EPIGLOTTITIS.

URGENT.

GET EMERGENCY MEDICAL HELP RIGHT AWAY.

No

6. Does your child have pain and tenderness in the front of the chest, along the border of the breastbone and ribs, and does it get worse when your child coughs or takes a deep breath?


Yes

This may be caused by COSTOCHONDRITIS, an inflammation of the joints in the chest.

Heat and an anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen, may help relieve symptoms. DO NOT give aspirin to your child without consulting your doctor first (see warning below). See your doctor if the pain is severe or if it doesn't improve with these medicines.

No

For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think your child's problem is serious, call your doctor right away.

WARNING: Don't give your child aspirin without your doctor's approval, due to the risk of Reye's syndrome.

This tool has been reviewed by doctors and is for general educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. The information in this tool should not be relied upon to make decisions about your health. Always consult your family doctor with questions about your individual condition(s) and/or circumstances. Source: American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Health & Medical Guide. Dallas: Word Publishing; 1996.

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