Causes of chest pain in children and teenagers

Chest pain in children is often because of a severe cough, which might be caused by asthma or an infection of the airways or lungs. Coughing all the time can strain the muscles of your child’s chest wall.

Another common cause of chest pain in children is a ‘stitch’ below the rib cage. This is a sharp pain that lasts several minutes and might start after exercise. It’s normal and isn’t a sign of heart disease.

If your child has fallen on her side or had a blow to the chest and complains of chest pain, she might have injured a rib or a muscle in the chest wall.

Gastro-oesophageal reflux can cause a burning or uncomfortable feeling in the chest.

In older children, chest pain might be because of swelling of the rib joints (costochondritis) or anxiety.

Heart disease is a very rare cause of chest pain in children.

When to see your doctor about chest pain in children

See your GP if your child:

  • complains of severe chest pain
  • is short of breath
  • feels faint or dizzy
  • has chest pain following an accident
  • has worse pain when he breathes deeply
  • has a fever or is generally unwell
  • feels confused.

If your child has risk factors for a more serious heart condition, she should also see a GP. These risk factors include:

  • prior heart disease or surgery
  • a blood, blood clotting, inflammation or cholesterol disorder
  • chronic lung or airway disease
  • type-1 diabetes or type-2 diabetes
  • a history of using stimulating drugs like cocaine
  • a recent accident or chest injury.

Treatment for chest pain

If your child has chest pain without any of the above symptoms or risk factors, you can reassure him so he feels less worried.

You can give your child a simple pain medication like paracetamol to help provide some comfort.

Continue to monitor your child’s chest pain. If the pain doesn’t go away or gets worse, see your GP.