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Chest Contusion in Children: Care Instructions


A chest contusion, or bruise, is caused by a fall or direct blow to the chest. Car crashes, falls, getting punched, and injuries from bicycle handlebars are common causes of chest contusions. A very forceful blow to the chest can injure the heart or blood vessels in the chest, the lungs, the airway, the liver, or the spleen.

Pain may be caused by an injury to muscles, cartilage, or ribs. Deep breathing, coughing, or sneezing can increase your child's pain. Lying on the injured area also can cause pain.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Rest and protect the injured or sore area. Have your child stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing pain.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • After 2 or 3 days, if the swelling is gone, apply a warm cloth to your child's chest. Some doctors suggest that you go back and forth between hot and cold.
  • Do not wrap or tape your child's ribs for support. This may cause your child to take smaller breaths, which could increase the risk of pneumonia and lung collapse.
  • Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for pain. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not give a child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Give medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with the medicine.
  • Even if it hurts, try to get your child to cough or take the deepest breath they can at least once every hour. This will get air deeply into the lungs. This may reduce the chance of getting pneumonia. Have your child hold a pillow against their chest to make this less painful.
  • Gentle stretching and massage may help your child feel better after a few days of rest. Help your child stretch slowly to the point just before discomfort begins, then hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds. Do this 3 or 4 times a day.
  • As the pain gets better, your child can slowly return to their normal activities. Be patient, because chest bruises can take weeks or months to heal. Any increased pain may be a sign that your child needs to rest a while longer.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has severe trouble breathing.
  • Your child coughs up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has belly pain.
  • Your child is dizzy or light-headed or feels like they may faint.
  • Your child is vomiting.
  • Your child develops new symptoms with the chest pain.
  • Your child's chest pain gets worse.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has some shortness of breath.
  • Your child has a cough that brings up mucus from the lungs.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child's chest pain is not improving after 1 week.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.