Costochondritis: Benign Chest Pain in Children and Teens

Chest pain in adults is a sign that the individual needs to seek medical attention immediately. When children complain of this symptom, it’s unlikely that they are experiencing a heart attack. Although heart failure in children does exist, it’s a rare condition for a person in this age group.

When a young person complains of chest pain, they should be checked out by a doctor to determine the cause.

Symptoms that warrant immediate medical attention in children with chest pain include:

-Pain that extends to the arm or jaw on the left side of the body

-Pain that includes an element of pressure on the chest

-Pain that is not relieved at all after using a medication like ibuprofen for 24 hours

-Cough, especially one that produces phlegm


-Blue or pale lips or fingernails

-Irregular or rapid heart rate

-Difficulty breathing

If the child or teen appears to be or expresses anxiety about the pain, then he or she needs to be evaluated by a physician. A common, and benign, explanation for chest pain is costochondritis.

About Costochondritis

Costochondritis is a medical condition where the patient is experiencing soreness in the joints located between the ribs and the sternum. With every breath a person takes, these joints move the ribs against the sternum. Lined with cartilage and containing a small amount of fluid to keep them lubricated, the joints can become inflamed.

When this happens, a costochondritis patient will complain of pain in the chest or that it hurts to breathe, cough or even laugh. This type of soreness is often associated with a cold or the flu, and symptoms can start a few days after the individual starts to present with symptoms.

In other cases, a person may develop costochondritis after a trauma. The doctor will need to know if the child or teen has recently been involved in a motor vehicle accident, fall or has experienced a sports-related injury. Being involved in strength training for teens should not trigger the symptoms of costochondritis, especially if the participant is using the weights properly, but the doctor should be aware of any new activities the young person has been involved in to help get to the cause of the chest pain.

It is possible for a person to develop costochondritis where there is no known cause. The recommended treatment for this condition is using an anti-inflammatory medication for a few days. In most cases, the symptoms resolve on their own, but if the child or teen doesn’t feel better within that time, a follow-up visit to the doctor is in order.