Adult Acne: Blasting Zits Into Oblivion

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Learn About Costochondritis: A Common Cause Of Chest Pain In Children

Health & Medical Blog

Chest pain in an otherwise healthy child may be a puzzle to many parents, who may assume it is a heart-related issue. However, a non-cardiac medical condition known as costochondritis may be the cause of your child's chest pain. This condition is non-life threatening and symptoms may subside in a short period of time. The pediatrician can make a conclusive diagnosis, as well as recommend treatment. Learn more about costochondritis, including causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention.

What Is Costochondritis?

In children (and adults) the ribs are connected to the sternum (breastbone) by a flexible tissue known as cartilage. This connection meets at the costosternal joints in the chest area. When the cartilage becomes inflamed, either through injury or over-exertion, chest pain may be felt in the costosternal joints. This condition is known as costochondritis.

What Are the Symptoms of Pediatric Costochondritis?

If you and your child's doctor suspect costochondritis, there are specific symptoms to be alerted to. This condition may produce any of the following:

  • Tenderness and pain alongside the chest wall or ribs.

  • Sharp pain when taking a deep breath.

  • Shortness of breath accompanying the pain.

Because other medical conditions may produce the same symptoms, it is important to confirm a proper diagnosis from a physician. To achieve a proper diagnosis, your child's pediatrician may perform an evaluation and examination. The doctor may check for tenderness and swelling along the rib cage. He or she may also suggest blood work or x-rays to rule out other possible causes such as pneumonia.

What Causes This Condition?

Approximately 10-30 percent of musculoskeletal chest pain in children is caused by costochondritis, but why does this occur? Although there is no definite cause, it is speculated that it may be due to exertion of the arms (as experienced during sports or repetitive motion activities). Viral infections may be a factor as well. During an upper respiratory viral infection, forceful coughing may irritate the connective tissue of the breastbone and ribs.

What Treatment is Typically Advised for Costochondritis in Children?

The goal is to reduce inflammation and relieve the pain caused by this condition. This may be achieved by one or more of the following methods:

  • The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications: This should be administered in a dosage appropriate for your child's age and weight. Ibuprofen is generally the drug of choice, as this will help reduce inflammation. It may also relieve much of your child's pain. It's important to follow directions carefully and report unusual side effects to the doctor at once.

  • A heating pad to the area of discomfort: Your child's chest pain may be relieved by the application of heat. To avoid the possibility of burns to the skin, be sure the heating pad cover is in place.

  • The use of an ice pack: If the pain is not relieved by heat applications, applying an ice pack to the affected area may help. Ice may be applied for up to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Wrap the ice in a towel or cloth so it does not come in direct contact with the skin.

In extreme cases of costochondritis where the patient does not respond to standard treatment methods, or the cartilage becomes extremely worn or damaged, surgery may be necessary. This would require removal of the damaged cartilage by a pediatric surgeon.

How Can Pediatric Costochondritis Be Prevented?

A preventative measure is to minimize the risk of potential stress or injury. If your child's activities involve constant movement of the arms, he or she might perform gentle stretching exercises before doing so. Warming up before performing strenuous activities may prevent strain on the chest cartilage.

As a word of precaution, seek medical advice from your child's pediatrician if he or she experiences chest pain. A qualified professional will make a conclusive diagnosis and recommend a treatment plan. To learn more, contact a center like Alpert Zales & Castro Pediatric Cardiology.


9 November 2015