Kids can get chest pain too — even sudden, sharp pain that takes their breath away.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
While it may be scary, brief episodes of chest pain usually aren’t caused by the heart or lungs, says pediatric cardiologist Kenneth Zahka, MD.
“Of course, heart problems are the first thing many parents think of, but chest pain in children is most often not due to a serious condition,” he says.
Common causes of chest pain in children
So what does frequently cause chest pain in kids and teens? It could be due to:
- Muscle or joint strain. “Kids might have chest pain from doing different or more-strenuous-than-normal activities,” Dr. Zahka says. “Usually, they can trigger the pain with a certain movement or by pressing on a certain area.”
- Inflammation. “If the ribs are tender adjacent to the breastbone, it may be costochondritis, a type of joint inflammation,” he says.
These conditions go away in a few days. The best treatment is taking pain relievers and staying away from activities that aggravate the pain.
Another common cause: Texidor’s twinge
Texidor’s twinge (also called precordial catch syndrome) is also a common cause of childhood chest pain. (It’s named for one of the physicians who first identified it in 1955.) Fortunately, the most harm it does is cause worry.
Dr. Zahka describes it as:
- Sudden, sharp and intense pain.
- Usually on the left side of the chest.
- Lasting only seconds or minutes.
- Occurring several times a day or only one time.
- Affecting children and adolescents who are otherwise healthy.
- Not triggered by physical activity.
- Often occurring when at rest.
- Worsened by inhaling, exhaling or moving.
This pain can be stunning. But it typically leaves as quickly as it comes — with no explanation.
What causes Texidor’s twinge isn’t known for sure, but it most likely has nothing to do with the heart. Some doctors think it’s a muscle cramp or caused by a compressed nerve.
So what should you do about Texidor’s twinge? Like other common childhood chest pain, there’s no treatment for it, but it should go away quickly on its own. If the pain recurs, try anti-inflammatory medicine, like ibuprofen.
“Texidor’s twinge isn’t dangerous or life-threatening and usually resolves by adulthood,” says Dr. Zahka.
When chest pain is serious
Serious chest pain feels different than Texidor’s twinge, according to Dr. Zahka. Usually, serious pain is:
- Very intense.
- Triggered by physical activity.
- Accompanied by fever or other symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath or fainting.
Pain related to the heart also typically radiates out from the chest. If your child has these symptoms, call your doctor immediately.
It’s never wrong to consult a healthcare professional if you are worried about your child’s chest pain symptoms. A pediatrician or pediatric cardiologist can help get to the bottom of it.