Chest Pain in Children: Recognizing Potential Causes and Concerns

Chest pain is a symptom commonly associated with adults but can also affect children. While chest pain in children is often non-cardiac and benign, parents and caregivers need to recognize potential causes and concerns related to this discomfort. In this article, we will explore the various factors that can lead to chest pain in children and provide insights into when to seek medical attention.

Common Causes of Chest Pain in Children:

Chest pain in children can be caused by a range of factors, including:

  • Muscle Strain: Children, particularly those involved in sports or physical activities, may experience chest pain due to muscle strain or overuse.
  • Growth-Related Pain: As children grow, they may experience chest pain known as “growing pains,” which are typically benign and occur during periods of rapid growth.
  • Respiratory Infections: Conditions like bronchitis or pneumonia can lead to chest discomfort, often accompanied by cough and fever.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) or indigestion can cause chest pain, mainly if triggered by certain foods or lying down after eating.
  • Psychological Factors: Stress, anxiety, or emotional distress can manifest as chest pain in children.
  • Heart-Related Causes: While rare, congenital heart conditions or inflammation of the hearts lining (pericarditis) can lead to chest pain.

Identifying Concerns and When to Seek Medical Attention:

Recognizing potential concerns related to chest pain in children is crucial for prompt evaluation and care:

  • Location of Pain: The location of the pain can provide valuable insights. If the pain is centered over the sternum (breastbone), it is less likely to be cardiac. However, pain that radiates to the left arm or jaw should be evaluated immediately.
  • Duration and Triggers: Chest pain that is brief and occurs in response to movement or deep breathing is typically non-cardiac. Prolonged, unprovoked, or recurrent pain should raise concerns.
  • Accompanying Symptoms: Fever, cough, shortness of breath, or abdominal pain, when present with chest pain, may indicate an underlying medical issue that requires attention.
  • Medical History: A child’s medical history, particularly any congenital heart conditions or previous episodes of chest pain, should be considered when evaluating the cause.

Preventive Measures:

While some causes of chest pain in children are not preventable, some steps can be taken to reduce the risk:

  • Promote Healthy Habits: Encourage children to maintain a balanced diet, stay physically active, and manage stress through relaxation techniques or hobbies.
  • Regular Check-Ups: Routine medical check-ups can help identify and manage underlying health issues.
  • Teach Stress Management: Equip children with effective stress management techniques to help prevent chest pain related to emotional factors.



Chest pain in children is a multifaceted symptom that can have various causes, some of which are non-cardiac and benign. Parents and caregivers must understand the potential causes and recognize when to seek medical attention. While most cases of chest pain in children are unrelated to heart problems, a healthcare professional should promptly evaluate any persistent or concerning symptoms to ensure the child’s well-being. Parents can help their children manage and alleviate chest pain effectively by staying informed and proactive while promoting their overall health and wellness.

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