Chest Pain in Kids: A Common Complaint
Chest pain in kids is a very common complaint that is often heard from young children to teenagers. More often than not it is not a symptom of heart disease in children. In fact, over 95% of children referred to see a pediatric cardiologist for chest pain, do not have any identifiable heart cause.
Parents will appropriately ask what is the cause of chest pain. As there are multiple structures in the chest, there are many different causes of chest pain. I try to think about different causes of chest pain as follows.
Chest Pain in Kids: Musculoskeletal Causes
Probably the most common forms of chest pain in kids are related to some irritation in the chest wall or the musculoskeletal system. People will use the term growing pains and I think this usually represents costochondritis or inflammation of the joints between the ribs and the breastbone. This usually hurts to push on the chest. As this is an inflammation, using anti-inflammatory medications such as Motrin or Aleve can help. Another common cause is what we term as precordial catch syndrome. I have had this pain and describe it as a sudden and severe pain in the left chest. It will sometimes hurt when I breathe and I’ll try to move to allow the pain to “release”. As quickly as it comes on it will often disappear quickly in a matter of minutes. We are unaware what causes this type of pain, but it is very common and does not seem to be associated with any more severe illness. Sometimes children will also strain or injure the chest wall during sports or workouts. Like other types of soreness, allowing time and over the counter pain medications will allow these symptoms to resolve.
Chest Pain in Kids: Lung Causes
There are many lung causes of chest pain. Asthma can lead to chest tightness and difficulty catching ones breath. This is a very important cause of chest pain in kids that can be treated and improves ones quality of life. More significant pulmonary causes of chest pain in kids can occur too. Fever and chest pain could represent a lung infection. Severe and persistent chest pain can be a symptom of pneumothorax or air around the lungs. Obviously, severe and persistent chest pain, especially associated with a fever should be evaluated by a physician.
Chest Pain in Kids: Stomach Causes
Some children will experience chest pain at night while lying down for bed or even wake up at night. As adults, we will feel heart burn after certain meals, children can also experience these symptoms. These symptoms can be treated with antacid medications. And just like stress and anxiety can make people feel uncomfortable symptoms, sometimes children can feel this into their chest.
Chest Pain in Kids: Cardiac Causes
As I state above, over 95% of chest pain referrals to a pediatric cardiologist are non-cardiac and with that, most are not life threatening. However, there are important cardiac causes of chest pain in children. As with pulmonary causes of chest pain, persistent and severe chest pain, associated with fever can represent pericarditis or an inflammation in the sack the surrounds the heart. Chest pain that occurs repetitively with exercise and symptoms of passing out with exercise can be very important. There are rare coronary artery origin anomalies that can cause these types of symptoms. Other causes can be severe valve abnormalities or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. In general, many of the cardiac causes of chest pain can be sorted out with good historical evaluations and physical examination and simple tests such as an electrocardiogram and echocardiogram.
My grandson is 13 and occasionally complains of burning in his chest. Of course I’m a worrying grandmother. He also had some spells of dizziness while playing basketball this year. He has mentioned a couple of times that “it was hard to breathe”. His mother took him to the family Dr. and they said that it was probably dehydration . Can someone please put this grandmother’s mind at ease. I have watched Dr. Madsen’s video , but I am still not certain with his symptoms. Thanks
My 10-year-old son says his heart hurts when exercising and he sometimes feels dizzy. He’s a great athlete and plays soccer and does junior lifeguards so it seems odd to me that he has these symptoms. My daughter has a mild congenital heart defect so obviously I’m a worried mom. I am going to take my son to the doctor to be on the safe side but I also was researching and came across some non-profit sites that do cardiac screenings. One is called Heartfelt Cardiac Projects but there are also others. This particular one asks for an $85 donation but I know that some others are free so if you google “youth cardiac screening” or something similar you might come across one in your area. I’m gonna pay the $85 to have some peace of mind (it will be faster than waiting for a referral)!
Alison Dauth says
Hi my name is Alison..my daughter Michelle is 13 turning 14 next mnth. She has been having chest pains for the last year. She has been checked by out local hospital twice with exg and xrays and bloods..they say cannot find anything wrong and she must stop stressing. Its a year later and she still gets the pains..at different times of the day. Describes it as a stabbing pain with difficulty breathing somtimes and dizziness.. i ahve watched Dr Madisons viedeo and it does not hurt when i push on her chest and she does not do any sport..so what can it be? Please help
Mark Law, MD says
Sharp and stabbing chest pain in kids is usually not a sign of heart disease. Some people term this type of chest pain, precordial catch syndrome. It usually hurts to breath and that can result in felling short of breath. We do not understand what is underlying cause of precordial catch syndrome but since it does not seem to be a sign of other more significant disease, the best treatment is reassurance.
I have an 8 yr old who started grabbing her left side of her chest and saying it hurts and her heart is “beeping” fast. When I put my hand on her chest I can feel her heart beating so fast and hard. This happens several times throughout the day. Also, she’s getting bad headaches and feels lightheaded. It’s been two days this has been going on. I took her to her pediatrician and he said it might be a virus though there is no other signs of a virus. No fever, cough, stomach ache etc. Just her heart and head. I don’t know what to do and it worried me.
My son had chest pains when he was 9 and I’ve had him checked st the ER, his doctor and a cardiologist but they didn’t find anything. He is now 11 with the same symptoms of feeling he was punched in the chest and takes his breath away. What else can I do but run back and forth to the doctor because you never know?
Did this ever get resolved? My daughter is going through the same thing. She even describes it the same way. Getting punched. She’s 8.
My 7 years old daughter wakes up at night screaming and crying that her hear hurts. It’s been going on for three days a few times every night. Before that she complained of a shoulder pain, mostly at night as well. She seems fine during the day. We thought it was a strained muscle- gave her paracetamol and rubbed with vicks. Should I get her checked?
Did you find out what was wrong with you daughter?
Yes my 13 is going through something similar at it has gotten worse and lasts for days last time it was12. Now a migraine accompanies the chest pain and the specialist still doesn’t know whats wrong. So please get her checked
This is happening with my 8 yr old daughter. Migraine and chest pains also palpitations 😔
Lisa Leach says
My 8 year old daughter was having chest pains and had a fever of 103 on a Sunday. By Monday she was fine. Tuesday it started again, but this time with pain on her lower right side, still same chest pain with fever of 102.2. Wednesday she is fine. ER did EKG-Normal, Chest X-ray-Normal, Urine sample-normal, what’s next? She would cry because the chest pain hurt so bad. She had no shortness of breath or dizziness. It is so bizarre with the symptoms coming and going every other day.
She may have a infection going on somewhere get her checked
My child is 12 in the six to a least a year she’s been hurt from her back to her chest. She complaints lately every day about chest pain we are in a small the town our doctor just do a lot of talking, then they are saying growing pain or inflammation. Then we have done ER like several time they say there is nothing wrong just inflammation. Naproxen, cyc some muscle relaxers they prescribe it does nothing. Every day she’s dealing with this pain so I’m asking what I do as a parent to help my child. Help!
Did you find out what was wrong with your daughter?
Lisa Williams says
My daughter 13 years old complains about chest pain on a daily basis I have taken her to see a pediatric cardiologist but everything seems normal I’ve taken her to see her primary care physician and nothing she gets pain even in her knees for some years now I don’t know what else to do at this point I been given her Tylenol and ibuprofen but that doesn’t work for her very worried about my daughter
Hi, my son is now 17 years old and has been suffering with chest pain for the past 2 years while exercising. He got the pain within minutes of playing football which becomes so severe he cannot carry on playing. We have had heart, lungs and acid reflux checks but it all shows no problems (which is a relief) but frustrating also. We also tried an inhaler before football and during but made no difference. He gets the pain while cycling and any other sports and doesn’t seem to be out growing it. Any advice would be appreciated.
Hi this is the exact thing that is happening g with my daughter. She has extreme made in her chest and stomach and feels
Like her vision is off
And feels like she is going to faint whenever she runs or plays lacrosse in a game. She had EKG, ultrasound of her heart, stress test . They ended up saying it was cochronditis a year ago. Now she is having the same thing happening aGain and she can’t play lacrosse because she can’t run. She didn’t have asthma. I am waiting on more lab results . Did you find out any answers for your son.
Karina Hernandez says
My daughter is 10 years old. She was diagnosed with asthma since she was a toddler, she takes flovent twice a day and singular once a day and Albuterol inhaler when needed. She was diagnosed with a heart murmur a year and a half ago, we’ve never had any issues but the last past weeks she has been complaining of chest pain, dizziness and feels confused. I don’t want to overreact because that will scare her, I have an appointment coming up soon but what are your thoughts?
Same situation here
g. miller says
Question: 16 yr old appearing healthy athletic male ( Ht. 6’2′,Wt. 185, HR 51, RR 20, afebrile, flushing of face, history of extra atrial beats, with slight ST elevation probable due to early repolarization – diagnosis: asthma. Age 14 similar c/o of heaviness in chest, uses albuterol/ Pulmicort inhalers , antihistamines, ( Zyrtec/singular) , complains of heaviness in chest before and during exercise while participating in sports. recently passed out while walking/standing on field of play. unable to protect himself when fell hands to side, face down gasping for air momentarily while down , awakened , total body weakness and lightheaded , poor balance/coordination for 15-20 min after event. complains of core discomfort post fall. with continued sensation of heavy chest upon resting, or activity. lasting from minutes to days with each episode independent, does not appear anxious upon recovery of event.
Paternal history similar in nature. diagnosis anxiety with critical hypertension + treatment therapy anti-hypertensive agent. PCP unable to diagnosis symptoms related to respiratory issues in 16 yr old.. Your thoughts?
My 8 year old says her chest hurts when I ask her what it feels like she will squeeze my arm so am guessing it’s like pressure she been feeling and said it hurts when she takes breaths but I have had her checked out and they found nothing wrong with her they done blood work X-ray but she plays fine just complaining of that at times
It may be Costochondristis, it’s very common in kids and is usually the reason to why kids get Chest pain. It is inflammation of the breast bone and ribs. Usually caused by lifting heavy stuff and stress.